|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.
**Haiti Donors’ Conference
As you know, the international Donors’ Conference, “Towards a New Future in Haiti”, is taking place at United Nations Headquarters in New York this Wednesday. And it would be crucial to help Haiti build back better, as the Secretary-General has said repeatedly, and indeed said in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post today. And this Conference will focus on pledges of assistance for the country’s effective long-term recovery and reconstruction. And it is an opportunity to mobilize global efforts, partnering with the Haitian Government and its people.
**Today’s Guests at Noon Briefing
I am very pleased to have with us here, as you can see, Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Chairperson of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG), and Edmond Mulet, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations and Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). And they are here to highlight the priorities for the forthcoming Haiti Donors’ Conference.
Thank you very much to both of you for coming, and I am going to hand the floor first to Mr. Mulet. Please.
[Summary of press conference issued separately.]
**Secretary-General’s Statement on Train Bombings in Moscow
We did issue a statement a little bit earlier, attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, on the train bombings in Moscow in which the Secretary-General strongly condemns those suicide bombings and extends his deepest condolences to the families of the victims.
**Secretary-General’s Visit to Libya
And also, you all know that the Secretary-General is back in UN Headquarters after spending the weekend in Libya, where he met with Arab leaders attending the League of Arab States Summit hosted by Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi.
On Saturday, the Secretary-General addressed the plenary session of the Summit, where he urged Arab leaders to support the proximity talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. He said that the proximity talks should not be an end in themselves but should lead eventually to direct talks, at which all of the core issues involved in the peace process could be addressed. And we have copies of that speech and a transcript of a press conference he gave in Sirte, Libya, available online and in my office.
So I am very happy to take any questions that you might have in addition to the long session we have had on Haiti.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I have a couple questions about Sudan. One, there are reports that the JEM [Justice and Equality Movement] is saying that the loudly announced ceasefire may be breaking, that the Government is moving its forces for a military offensive into Kordofan and El Geneina. So I am just wondering if UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] is aware of these movements, what it can say about the status between the Government and JEM?
And also, a sort of a relatively new rebel leader of the Liberation and Justice Movement that emerged in Doha, Al-Tijani Al-Sissi, appears to be a UN staff member working for the UN in Addis Abba. Now I am wondering how one could be, at the same time, a described pro-Government Darfur rebel leader, as well as being a UN staff member at the same time? I am wondering if you could look into that and find exactly what day this individual stopped being paid by the UN?
Spokesperson: What is the sourcing on that?
Correspondent: Sudan Tribune and also the UN itself. I think you will find Al-Tijani Al-Sissi employed by the UN in Addis Abba.
Spokesperson: I just wanted to know the sourcing of the report on the rebel connection.
Correspondent: The Sudan Tribune and elsewhere. Those are two.
Spokesperson: Alright, well we can look into that for sure. The first one I also need to find out more about that. I do not have anything for you on that.
Question: Do you know if they have reached Jebel Marra yet? Remember this has been back and forth for some time, about them getting to this region?
Spokesperson: I am not sure. I need to check. I need to check. Anything else?
Question: Also, it may be related, but there has been a lot of reporting over the weekend about this massacre in northern Congo attributed to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). First of all, if it happened in December, I am just wondering why it took Human Rights Watch visiting in March for the UN to… is this the first [time that] the UN and MONUC [United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] is aware of the death of 321 people in a brutal fashion in northern Congo? And since they have seemed to have announced a new strategy, what is the new strategy? But mostly, what accounts for the delay, and have they yet visited these villages where people were killed?
Spokesperson: Well, let’s just try to unravel that a little bit. First of all, it is not news. MONUC made the preliminary findings of its own joint investigation with the Human Rights Office public during a press conference at the end of January. And so this Mabanga killing was not an unreported killing. There is an investigation that is still in progress, and the team is trying to get a more accurate picture of events on the ground and that includes also the exact number of victims. The UN cannot confirm the exact number of victims at this point.
As you may know, the terrain we are talking about is extremely challenging. Not only is this an area that is about the size of Spain, but there is a relatively small number of UN peacekeepers, total of about 600 UN peacekeepers in that area that is affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. So this is an investigation that is still going on. [The killing] took place in a very remote area, in lots of little villages. Some of the witnesses may well have moved on and dispersed. So the bottom line is that MONUC reported on this ‑‑ the preliminary results of a joint investigation at the end of January.
And as to your question about the strategy, you will have seen that Mr. [Alan] Doss spoke quite clearly on this and I do not need to elaborate further on that. He spoke very, very clearly on that.
Question: That is what gives rise to the question. If the UN was aware of this massacre in January, as you say, why is a strategy to deal with it being announced in March? I just do not understand. Like, if the UN knew, it should have acted then. If it didn’t know, why didn’t it know? Do you see what I mean?
Spokesperson: This is speaking after the fact, if you like. As I have just mentioned, this is an enormous challenge geographically, logistically and militarily. It has not been possible to protect everybody and, given the size of the area that we are talking about, it is not possible to be everywhere at once. But there are some key points here. It requires better intelligence gathering, it requires air mobility and it requires cooperation with the local people. Some of that will already have been in place, some of it needs to be enhanced, and that relies on the help and support of the Member States, as well as the Mission that exists on the ground already.
Question: In Congo, has anyone asked for satellite overheads to pinpoint the Lord’s Resistance Army and maybe a drone to follow-up?
Spokesperson: I would have to find out what kind of, if we are talking about intelligence gathering, I would have to find out exactly what that entails.
Question: Maybe they cannot see it from the air, but it seems to me they…
Spokesperson: As I understand it, it is extremely difficult to get in by vehicle, never mind by helicopter. It is an enormous area and extremely difficult to get access to.
Question: Human Rights Watch was calling for MONUC, the UN, to beef up the number of troops in that area. Is there any consideration being given to that?
Spokesperson: At the moment, there is an assessment that has been put together. There was an assessment mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And there has also been a request from the Government to look into a gradual drawdown and how that takes place. It is up to the Member States in due course, meaning the Security Council, to decide on the scope of the mission of MONUC. And I am sure that all of these factors will be taken into account when the Security Council takes up this matter and hears a report quite soon.
Question: I have a question about Myanmar. The opposition party declared that they do not participate in the general election. How does the United Nations react to that?
Spokesperson: The Secretary-General has already expressed his concerns and expectations in this regard. He spoke about this last week, he convened the Group of Friends on Myanmar as well last week. What he said was that the international community would need to respect any decision that was taken by Aung San Suu Kyi and her party with regard to the election. But clearly, what he has also said is that, if the election is to be considered credible and fair, it needs to be as inclusive as possible.
Question: I just have one follow-up on the trip to Sirte. You had said, I think on Friday, that if the Secretary-General found out that one of his security officers, in this case a Lebanese officer Mohammad Abdul Hussein, was in fact denied a visa or otherwise blocked from accompanying him to Sirte in Libya, that he would make some kind of a complaint. Did he discover that to be the fact or did he find it not to be the fact?
Spokesperson: Let me find out exactly what was discovered. But the most important point is that, if it turns out to have been the case, in whatever way a UN official was not allowed to be a part of the Secretary-General’s delegation, then clearly we would express our disagreement with that. But let me find out exactly what happened.
Question: And do you know if the NAM [Non-Aligned Movement] letter has been responded to?
Spokesperson: You asked me before, and I promise faithfully that once a letter is sent I will let you know.
Correspondent: Because I think that the NAM has now written a second letter to the Secretary-General. I do not know if it moots out the first.
Spokesperson: Let’s see. Alright, thank you.
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