Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

12 March 2010

Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

12 March 2010
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

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

and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

 

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

So good afternoon, everybody.  Welcome to the briefing.  Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, will also be here a little bit later to brief you.

**Secretary-General’s Trip to Haiti

The Secretary-General will be travelling to Haiti this Sunday on a one-day visit to assess conditions on the ground.  And this will be the Secretary-General’s second visit to Haiti since the tragic earthquake of 12 January.

And while in Port-au-Prince, the Secretary-General will meet with Haitian President [René] Préval and Prime Minister [Jean-Max] Bellerive, as well as with the leadership of MINUSTAH [the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] and the UN country team.

The Secretary-General will also visit a camp for internally displaced persons and engage directly with Haitians still suffering the debilitating consequences of the earthquake.

**Pakistan Statement

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Pakistan.

The Secretary-General condemns the series of attacks in Pakistan which has occurred in recent days.  These include the suicide bombing today in Lahore which killed and injured scores of people, as well as the attack on the office of the humanitarian non-governmental organization World Vision International.  He reiterates that no cause can justify such inhuman and indiscriminate acts of violence.  He extends his condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government of Pakistan, and wishes those injured a full recovery.

**Security Council

The Security Council adopted a resolution this morning extending the mandate of the UN Mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (MINURCAT) by two months, until 15 May.

The Council then went into consultations to hear a briefing from Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon.  He presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006), which notes that the continued respect for the cessation of hostilities by Israel and Lebanon has provided for the most stable period in the relationship between the two countries for decades.  Yet the situation remains fragile, and this is further compounded by the use of increasingly strident and bellicose rhetoric warning of renewed conflict.

Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber, Director of the Asia and the Middle East Division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, also briefed on the work of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Mr. Williams, I understand, will speak to reporters at the Security Council stakeout after the consultations have finished.

** Nepal

And the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, today ended his three-day visit in Nepal.  He urged Nepal’s political leadership to move forward in the peace process by taking action to reintegrate former combatants and complete the new constitution on time.

And Pascoe told reporters before his departure that Nepal's leaders understand exactly what has to be done, and now is the time to move it forward.  He described his visit as being “extremely good”.  He said that the two biggest issues Nepal now faces are the question of integration and rehabilitation, and drafting of the constitution.

**Somalia

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is extremely worried about the worsening situation for the civilian population in Somalia following the latest indiscriminate fighting in Mogadishu and elsewhere in the country.  The agency estimates that, since the beginning of the year, more than 100,000 Somali civilians have been forced to flee their homes across the country.

UNHCR is especially concerned about the safety and well-being of some 8,300 people who, without any means to get out of Mogadishu, remain displaced within the capital.  As the fighting rages on, aid agencies lack access and cannot assist these extremely vulnerable internally displaced people. And we have more in today’s UNHCR briefing notes.

So that’s what I have for you.  Happy to take questions.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Martin, I got what you said yesterday about Pakistan.  The aid workers -- I got that press release.  I just wanted to know, today three bombs exploded in Lahore, the city of Lahore.  Any reaction from the Secretary-General? 

Spokesperson:  I guess you came in late, Masood, because I just read out a statement in the name of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Pakistan, addressing precisely this topic.  Happy to take other questions.

Question:  I am wondering when Catherine Ashton and the Secretary-General will be going to Gaza?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, we mentioned yesterday that the trip by Lady Ashton is separate from the trip by the Secretary-General.  This is not a joint visit.  And we’re not saying exactly at this point when the Secretary-General will be going to Gaza.  But, as we’ve announced, he will be going after the Quartet meeting.  But the exact timing is not something that we have at the moment.

Question:  Does anyone know?

Spokesperson:  I didn’t say I didn’t know.  It’s whether I am going to tell you.

Question:  Martin, I am just wondering whether the Secretary-General will go some time soon, or this year, to the Balkans?  He never went there; does he have any plans to go there?

Spokesperson:  I am not aware of any plans at the moment, but that could change.  I will look into it, but I am not aware of any plans at the moment. 

Question:  On Chad, is it the Secretary-General’s view that, if the peacekeepers leave, the people who are being protected, the refugees from Darfur, will be exposed?  And that, therefore, does he feel strongly that they should remain?

Spokesperson:  Well, look, this extension today is a technical extension and in the meantime, the United Nations will continue discussions on the future of MINURCAT beyond 15 May.  And the UN’s clear preference is for MINURCAT to stay, with the appropriate level of troops to fulfil the mandate given by the Security Council.  I think that that implicitly answers your question.  The recommendations of the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, who recently visited Chad, will be reflected in a report that is going to be submitted to the Security Council quite soon.  And then it’s for the Security Council to decide on the way forward.

Question:  Has the Secretary-General been on the phone to Chadian Government officials to press the case?

Spokesperson:  Well, not, to my knowledge, recently.  But he does speak periodically, of course, but not, to my knowledge, recently.  I can find out.

Question:  And he’d raise this issue when he speaks with them?

Spokesperson:  I cannot answer that specifically, but clearly this is something, as you know, more relevantly in this context, Mr. [Alain] Le Roy was just in the region talking with the authorities precisely about this topic.

Correspondent:  I know.  Mr. Le Roy was reluctant to strongly state what you just said, less strong, on that the UN would like the troops to stay.

Spokesperson:  Well, that’s the UN’s preference -- that MINURCAT should stay with the appropriate level of troops so that it can carry out the mandate that was given to it by the Security Council.

Question:  Forgive me, I didn’t quite catch it.  Who was it that delivered the 1701 report for the Secretary-General at the Council session this morning, and may I assume that report will be available to us in print?

Spokesperson:  This is Michael Williams, if I remember correctly, and he will be coming to speak to you at the stakeout.

Question:  Okay.  And will that be available in print as well, do you think?

Spokesperson:  Why don’t you ask him?

Correspondent:  Martin, also, the President of the ICTY, International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, is quoted to say that now the exit strategy -- actually, the end of the old trials with the so-called residual category -- will be by the end of 2014.  I wonder whether the Secretary-General does have any opinion of that?  How he is satisfied with the prolongation of…

Spokesperson:  Where was this stated?

Correspondent:  I read it in the newspaper two days ago.  I can find out, but…

Spokesperson: Okay.  I’m just trying to understand the context.  Well, that’s something that I need to find out about.  I don’t have any immediate reaction to that.

Correspondent:  It’s 2014 now; it’s a totally new date that was given.

Spokesperson:  Right. Okay, well let’s see what we can find out.  Any other questions?

Question:  Will the staff from Haiti look for a new place to work from?  Are they looking for a new headquarters, or are they going to continue at the airport?

Spokesperson:  Well, at the moment they’re working from the Logistics Base, which is next to the airport, as you rightly say.  I think that that’s something that the Secretary-General will be able to assess on the ground when he is speaking to Edmond Mulet and the rest of the team there, precisely what’s happening.  I think, clearly, what you can imagine, is that at the moment the focus has been to be able to help the people.  And so they’re working from where they’re working.  But I hear what you’re saying, and I’m sure it’s a concern for them too.

Question:  The lease that they had with the landlord, for which they were paying $94,000 a month -- which to some people sounds an extraordinary amount of money for Haiti -- does that lease have anything about an act of God, and have they stopped paying this money?

Spokesperson:  This is something that I can’t answer here.  I will need to find out.  I don’t know.  Okay, any other questions?  Okay, in which case, I pass the floor to you, Jean Victor, and wish you a good weekend.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Thank you, Martin.  Good afternoon

**President Treki in Republic of Korea

Today in Seoul, the President of the General Assembly, H.E. Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, met with H.E. Lee Myung-bak, President of the Republic of Korea.

The meeting addressed the presidency of the Republic of Korea of the Group of 20 (G-20) and the preparations for the United Nations high-level plenary meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG Summit) that will take place from 20 to 22 September 2010 at the General Assembly, in addition to the recent natural disasters in Haiti and Chile, as well as climate change and other issues on the agenda of the General Assembly.

Dr. Treki expressed his appreciation of the role the Republic of Korea plays in supporting the work of the United Nations and in particular that of the General Assembly.

On the chairmanship of the Republic of Korea to the G-20, President Lee assured Dr. Treki that his country will ensure that the November 2010 Summit of the Group addresses the concerns of the developing world, in particular the impact of the global financial and economic crisis on their economies.  Dr. Treki underlined the need to involve the entire membership of the General Assembly in this regard, highlighting the concerns of developing countries regarding the global economic and financial situation.  In this context, Dr. Treki extended an invitation to President Lee to address a meeting of the General Assembly in his capacity as Chair of the G-20 Summit.

Both parties expressed the need to strengthen multilateralism and the importance of formulating collective responses to the global challenges facing the world.  They highlighted the importance of ensuring the success of the upcoming Mexico meeting on climate change.

On United Nations reform, both Presidents agreed that there is a need to strengthen the Organization in all areas, and to exert all efforts to build consensus around the various reform initiatives and to reflect the interests of the various stakeholders.

Dr. Treki briefed President Lee on the various meetings to be organized in the General Assembly in the coming months.  He referred to the upcoming thematic debates on issues such as water, financing for development, disarmament and non-proliferation, dialogue among civilizations, peacekeeping, as well as on the situation in the Middle East.  President Lee assured Dr. Treki of the support of the Republic of Korea for the work of the General Assembly and efforts to strengthen the United Nations.

Also today, Dr. Treki met with H.E. Yu Myung-hwan, Minister for Foreign affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea.  They exchanged views on a wide range of issues on the agenda of the UN, including efforts to reform and strengthen the UN, climate change, the preparations for the MDG Summit, disarmament and non-proliferation issues as well as the situation in the Korean peninsula and in the Middle East.

On Security Council reform, Foreign Minister Yu expressed his appreciation of the transparent and inclusive manner in which Dr. Treki is leading the process of intergovernmental negotiations in the General Assembly.  Dr. Treki informed Mr. Yu that he received numerous inputs from Member States, including from the Republic of Korea, on their respective positions regarding this very important issue.  He indicated that, although there is wide support for the need to reform the Security Council, positions remain far apart.

Foreign Minister Yu voiced support for the initiatives of the President of the General Assembly to hold high-level thematic debates on issues of importance to the international community.  They agreed to further the cause of multilateralism and pursue collective solutions to various global problems.  Dr. Treki expressed his appreciation of the role played by the Republic of Korea in supporting the United Nations, and paid tribute to the role of the Secretary-General, a national of the Republic of Korea, in strengthening the Organization.

Also today in Seoul, President Treki met with H.E. Kim Hyung-oh, Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea.  They discussed important issues on the agenda of the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly.  President Treki underlined the important role played by parliamentarians in advancing the issues on the agenda of the United Nations.  He praised the role of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in this context.  He stressed the need to further enhance the relationship between parliamentarians and the UN.  In this context, he extended an invitation to the Speaker of the National Assembly and a delegation of the Republic of Korea to visit the General Assembly.

The meeting was attended by the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee, Vice-President and Executive Member of the IPU.

Finally, two meetings that the President of the General Assembly held yesterday in the Republic of Korea.  He met with Dr. Sagong Il, Chairman of the G-20 Summit Korea Coordination Committee.  They exchanged views on the outreach efforts by the Republic of Korea to the countries [that are] not members of the G-20.  President Treki also met with H.E. Dr. Han Seung-soo, former Prime Minister and President of the fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly.

That’s what I have for you today.  Yes.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Hi, Jean Victor.  I was wondering if you had an update on this, the fact that in the city of Fallujah there is a very high rate of birth defects among babies?  There was a letter that was sent to the President of the General Assembly last fall, in September, and so I was wondering if you had any follow-up on that?

Spokesperson:  This is indeed a very important, a very grave issue.  We have submitted queries that are coming from the media and other entities to the President.  He is fully aware of that.  But the fact remains that Member States, a Member State, or groups, regional groups, have to come forward and ensure that this becomes an issue that can be discussed in the formal proceedings of the General Assembly.  The President received a letter that was signed by several personalities, including a former minister and other people who are very interested in this matter.  He is fully aware of that.  He continues to consult on this issue, but so far as far as I know, no Member State has come forward to address this issue in the formal framework of the General Assembly.

No further questions?  I wish you a pleasant and safe weekend.  Thank you.

* *** *

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