|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. Sorry I am a bit late. I was trying to get updates from the Secretary-General who is still travelling in Central Asia.
[The following statement on the Outcome of Nuclear Posture Review of the United States of America was issued after the noon briefing:
The Secretary-General takes note of the release of a Nuclear Posture Review by the United States of America, and he welcomes President [Barack] Obama's reaffirmation of his commitment towards a nuclear-weapon-free world. Following the recent successful conclusion of negotiations between the Russian Federation and the United States for a successor agreement to the Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START), the release of this new Nuclear Posture Review is a timely initiative in that direction. The Secretary-General hopes that this will help keep the recent positive momentum in the lead up to the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit and the Review Conference of Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT Review Conference).
The Secretary-General looks forward to the leadership of the United States in cooperation with other nuclear-weapon states, on further reducing and eliminating the role of nuclear weapons in security policies, which would contribute to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
As Secretary-General of the United Nations, he renews his firm commitment to advancing nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and facilitating success at the upcoming NPT Review Conference in May.]
**Statement on Kyrgyzstan
I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Kyrgyzstan. The Secretary-General is concerned about the reports of the seizure of a Government building in Talas, Kyrgyzstan. He emphasizes that while freedom of assembly is an essential element of any democratic society, the rule of law must be respected. He calls on all concerned to show restraint and appeals for dialogue.
The Secretary-General today visited the former Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in Kazakhstan, becoming the first head of the United Nations to do so. He flew by helicopter to the remote ground zero site, where atomic bomb tests were carried out. At the site, he told journalists that Semipalatinsk now stands as a symbol for nuclear disarmament and hope for the future.
The Secretary-General commended United States President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for concluding a nuclear weapons reduction treaty, which they are to sign on Thursday. He also described President Obama's nuclear posture review as an important initiative. He said, “I cannot think of a more fitting -- even poignant -- place to hear this news.”
He arrived in Kazakhstan after departing Tajikistan, where he spoke to the press. The Secretary-General told reporters that all parties should refrain from unilateral action concerning the Rogun Dam until the World Bank has concluded its technical assessment of Tajikistan’s proposed hydropower project. And he encouraged Tajikistan to further strengthen its human rights and justice institutions. We will have that transcript shortly.
And Matthew, I think that answers your question from yesterday.
Here at UN Headquarters, the UN Controller, Jun Yamazaki, today briefed the Security Council in an open meeting on the activities of the Development Fund for Iraq. He told the Council that, once all outstanding activities under the Oil-for-Food Programme are concluded, all other remaining funds should be transferred from the Iraq Escrow Account to the Development Fund. We have his remarks available in the Spokesperson’s office.
The Security Council then continued its discussions on Iraq in consultations, and it was also scheduled to take up Guinea-Bissau. The Security Council President for the month of April, Ambassador [Yukio] Takasu, is expected to go to the stakeout following those consultations and he plans to do so every day after Council business, we are told.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
Following up from yesterday on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Special Representative of the Secretary General in that country, Alan Doss, said in a statement issued after the briefing that he is concerned about the situation in Mbandaka, in Equateur province, where rebels attacked the town on Sunday. We had details on that attack yesterday.
On Afghanistan, Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s new Deputy Special Representative for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), arrived in Kabul today to take up his post. Kobler will be responsible for political issues in UNAMA, including electoral and parliamentary matters. Upon arrival, he said that he is committed to ensuring that all the work that the Mission does is in line with the priorities of the Government of Afghanistan.
There is a press release with more details, as well as a press release concerning Special Representative Staffan de Mistura’s visit to Mazar-i-Sharif in the northern part of the country.
And this, again, is a response to a question from yesterday on Haiti. The Department of Peacekeeping Operation says that an all-female Formed Police Unit from Bangladesh will be deployed to the UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) by the end of this month. They are part of reinforcements that the Security Council authorized in January 2010 following the earthquake on the 12 January.
The Formed Police Unit will consist of 130 female police officers and 30 support staff. Though final arrangements on what this Formed Unit will be asked to do cannot yet be confirmed, it is likely that they will work in some of the internally displaced persons camps to help provide security alongside the Haitian National Police.
Meanwhile, UNICEF has welcomed the return to school yesterday of some children who had been out of school for three months. While the goal was to get 70,000 children back to school by the summer, this small step, as UNICEF describes it, will help ensure children’s safety and give them a sense of normalcy. Some 3 million children in Haiti have received little or no schooling in the past three months. UNICEF says that 4,000 schools were destroyed in the earthquake.
And finally, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced that an innovative registration initiative, just completed on 31 March, has resulted in 26,000 Colombian refugees receiving identity documents in an isolated region of northern Ecuador. And you can read more about that in briefing notes from UNHCR in Geneva.
And that is all I have for you. I can take some questions.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you. Marie, can you tell us, there are reports in Pakistan that the Pakistani Government is asking for further review of this delay by the Secretary-General and that they have asked that it be delayed until June or July. Has the Secretary-General received such a request?
Deputy Spokesperson: No we have not, and the last update we had on that stands.
Question: I see. Ok, so you do not know of any requests?
Deputy Spokesperson: 15 April is the date that we have. Matthew.
Question: Also on Pakistan, there are these reports that the UN has closed its offices in Peshawar for the next two days. Is that something that you can confirm?
Deputy Spokesperson: There were some press reports. As you know, we normally do not discuss security issues.
Question: You know what? Maybe a week or ten days ago, I had asked Martin because there was a quote by UNAMA in Afghanistan saying that its staff would be withdrawn from Kandahar when NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] or ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] makes their assault. And he had said he would look into the seeming inconsistency in speaking on pulling back. Is there anything on that yet?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have not heard anything, no.
Question: Can I ask also about Sudan? There are intense negotiations between the Government, the JEM [Justice and Equality Movement] and other opposition groups about a possible delay in the elections. I am wondering what, given the UN’s technical assistance role, I just want to understand, does the UN, whether UNMIS [United Nations Mission in the Sudan] or the Secretariat, is it open to the idea that a delay could actually be helpful to the process? Or do they oppose a delay, as seemed to be the position?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I do not want to talk about a hypothetical situation, which is what you are referring to. So, I have nothing to comment on that for now.
Question: I actually have two -- one is real world and then one is inside here. It was just confirmed to me today by, I guess, DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] that this Darfur rebel leader, Mr. Eltigani Seisi, was in fact employed by the UN system until 8 March. He is now a signatory, as a rebel leader with the Government. I just want to know, what are the applicable rules for, at the same time, being a paid UN staff member and also being a political figure in a conflict such as Sudan’s? How is that possible and what is the UN going to do about the overlapping time of Darfur rebel and UN staff member?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think the answer that you got was actually from the Economic Commission of Africa [ECA]. So I think you need to follow up with them.
Question: Are they the ones who police the UN system’s rules? Because this is both an OHRM [Office of Human Resources Management] issue in terms of having two jobs at once, but it is also kind of a political issue. Many people now wonder about this rebel figure, if he in fact was a UN staff member. I mean, I think it is appropriate… I was given the email of somebody in ECA, but I do not think that is the right person to answer, so I am asking you.
Deputy Spokesperson: We can give you the right contact in ECA. And I think if you could…
Question: …But isn’t it a UN system matter?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think you should start with ECA, because that is where the person was employed, according to [inaudible].
Question: I will start there. Right, but I guess I would want to ask this policy question. I mean, I will send it to them, but maybe I will… it just seems to me that they are not the ones to…
Deputy Spokesperson: Start there.
Question: Okay. And then the last thing I wanted to ask you is, and it is a follow-up to things that arose yesterday about the new Security Council location. And I understand you had said that things were in process; it did not really work that well there. But one thing that arose this morning is this idea that, in the new location, that representatives of your office, of the Office of the Spokesperson, but also of DPKO and other Secretariat agencies, are no longer allowed in the consultation room. I was told by a DPKO individual that they are not allowed in. Is that your understanding, and if so, is this going to hamper the ability of the Secretariat to know what its punitive masters on the Security Council want it to do in peacekeeping missions and otherwise?
Deputy Spokesperson: I cannot speak on behalf of whoever you spoke with, but as Ambassador Takasu, the current Security Council President, mentioned yesterday at his briefing and what I said yesterday still holds in that there are negotiations -- discussions -- on a wide range of subjects in relation to the just completed move from the old location to the new one. So while those discussions are under way, I do not think I am going to have anything further to say on this matter.
Question: The reason I ask this one is because it seemed to have absolutely nothing to do with the physical structure of the new building. There is no argument; in fact, the consultation room is now longer than it was. So it seems to be, which to many of the press it seems, sort of taking advantage of the move as a pretext to make changes they wanted to be made. I just wonder if the Secretariat, does it feel that it is useful to have its staff in consultations or not? Do you see what I mean?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, obviously, if we were in there, it was useful, otherwise we would not be there. But, as the discussions are ongoing, I really would rather refrain from going further on that right now, okay?
Question: I appreciate that.
So, there is nothing else for me. Have a good afternoon and see you tomorrow.
* *** *