|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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Press Conference Today
Just to let you know that at 12:45 p.m. today, the Department of Public Information will hold a press conference to announce a new initiative called SPIRIT ‑‑ an open-source platform that will connect individuals all over the world to allow them to contribute to peace building initiatives.
And this initiative was developed in partnership with Columbia University. I believe some students from Columbia University might come around a little bit later this morning to see this room.
Statement on New START Treaty
I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General concerning the signing of the Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation on the New START Treaty:
The Secretary-General welcomes the signing of the new START Treaty as an important milestone in the international efforts to advance nuclear disarmament and to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.
The Secretary-General commends President [Dmitry] Medvedev and President [Barack] Obama for their leadership. He believes that this significant achievement will also help create a positive atmosphere for the upcoming Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
The Secretary-General hopes that the Russian Federation and the United States continue their efforts in the pursuit of the reduction and elimination of all nuclear weapons.
Travel to Washington
As we have made clear in recent statements, including the one that I just read, the Secretary-General has been encouraged by recent positive developments in the field of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. In this context, the Secretary-General believes that the Washington summit next week is taking place at an opportune moment, which will address daunting challenges facing the global nuclear non-proliferation regime. He plans to attend the summit and hopes that this important event will help keep momentum for the success of the upcoming Review Conference of Parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in May, which the Secretary-General will address.
When he attends next week’s summit in Washington, the Secretary-General will highlight the importance of coordination of global efforts at the national, regional and international level to address these challenges, including strengthening international conventions and institutions. He will also discuss his initiatives, including the Action Plan on Nuclear Disarmament and Non-proliferation.
Secretary-General in Austria
In Vienna today, the Secretary-General met with Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, and discussed a range of topics with him, including the future of United Nations peacekeeping operations, the need to continue to support Middle East peace talks, the current challenge of nuclear non-proliferation and the specific cases of Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the need for continued support for Afghanistan.
Regarding Kyrgyzstan, the Secretary-General told reporters that he is going to dispatch on an urgent basis his special envoy, Jan Kubiš, the head of the UN Economic Commission for Europe, who will visit Kyrgyzstan tomorrow. He said that he had been able to feel the tension in the air when he visited Kyrgyzstan over the past week, and he once more stressed the need to protect human rights and urged the parties to resolve their differences peacefully.
He was also asked about recent comments critical of the international community by President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, and responded that such rhetoric is not helpful and desirable at this time. He continues to expect full cooperation between Afghanistan and the international community.
The Secretary-General also met with Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, with whom he discussed, among other topics, the Middle East peace process, non-proliferation, the Millennium Development Goals and climate change. And they spoke to the press afterward. And the Secretary-General also met with Austrian President Heinz Fischer.
In the afternoon, the Secretary-General addressed the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Also today, the Secretary-General is giving an address in the historic Debating Chamber of the Former House of Deputies in the Austrian Parliament, organized by the Foreign Policy and UN Association of Austria. And that should be happening right about now. Then, tomorrow and Saturday, the Secretary-General will chair a meeting of the Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), which brings together the heads of the UN system.
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy is briefing the Security Council in its consultations this morning about the forthcoming elections in Sudan and about the UN Mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (MINURCAT).
Le Roy presented the Secretary-General’s recent report on the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), which notes numerous reports that the Mission has received about arbitrary arrests and harassment of political party members by security services. The report says that the Mission is using its good offices to work with all concerned in assisting the Sudanese to establish an environment whereby the elections are acceptable to the people of Sudan.
Mr. Le Roy will make remarks to the press at the Council stakeout once he has finished his briefings to the Security Council; and we’ll inform you when he is ready to come out.
Also, the Security Council President intends to speak at the stakeout to read a press statement concerning the death of long-time Russian diplomat Anatoly Dobrynin.
We also have available in the Spokesperson’s office a statement by the Mediation for Darfur, which is in the names of the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Qatar and Djibril Bassolé, the AU/UN Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur.
Drugs and Crime
And last, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released today its 2010 report. According to UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa, the report shows how health, security and justice are “the antidotes to drugs, crime and terrorism”. The report details the range of UNODC’s work around the world, including promoting drug treatment, reducing vulnerability to crime and improving criminal justice systems, and others. It also showcases UNODC’s growing capacity in drugs- and crime-related scientific and forensic services.
And that’s all I have for you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: In advance of the meeting next week with Obama and Hu Jintao, the Secretary-General going over there; is he intending, there is a lot of discussion today between President Obama and the Russian leader about sanctions on Iran. Does the Secretary-General have any intention of speaking about supporting those sanctions, trying to get Iran to end its nuclear programme next week?
Associate Spokesperson: As you’re well aware, the Secretary-General has repeatedly called for Iran to abide by the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, and to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and he continues to do so. As for sanctions on Iran, that’s really a question for the Member States of the Security Council, and the Secretary-General has not expressed his own views on that topic.
Question: But does he intend to speak about Iran in terms of their nuclear programme next week? Will he highlight Iran as one of the cases?
Associate Spokesperson: I’ll leave it to the Secretary-General to make his views known once he attends the summit. He does intend to speak to reporters once he’s back from Washington, and we’ll let you know when he’s going to come and talk to you.
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Regarding Sudan, does Mr. Ban Ki-moon think it’s the right time to have the elections, which are supposed to be held on 11 April, especially amid all these tensions? And yesterday the EU [European Union] observers announced that they would leave Darfur. And also there are some calls by some diplomats here to postpone it, at least for a short period of time to fix everything around the elections.
Associate Spokesperson: Now, the Security Council just received a briefing this morning from Alain Le Roy about the elections in Sudan. As you are aware, the Secretary-General recently issued a report on Sudan, and I would refer you to the text of that report, which is available. But beyond that, Mr. Le Roy does intend to make some remarks to reporters at the stakeout once he’s done in the Security Council, and he does expect to talk to you about Sudan elections. So I’ll leave it to him to give our views on this.
Question: Right, so you think that Mr. Ban Ki-moon is still calling for having the election on 11 April, as it is supposed to be held?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, just to repeat something I said a few minutes ago, in his report just issued in recent days, he made clear that the UN Mission in Sudan is using its good offices to work with all concerned in assisting the Sudanese to establish an environment whereby the elections are acceptable to the people of Sudan. Beyond that, like I said, Mr. Le Roy will be talking to you fairly shortly, and I think he will discuss the elections.
Question: [inaudible question, concerning public access to the new meeting room of the Security Council]
Associate Spokesperson: All the various issues having to do with public access and press access to the Security Council are being discussed right now. Those discussions are ongoing. I don’t have anything specific to say on that, but I believe that we made some progress on various fronts.
Question: On the press side, that’s fine. But I’m more concerned, rather, about the public, because it’s been the tradition since the Organization was founded that the public do have access.
Associate Spokesperson: And you’re aware that, as he made clear a couple of days ago, the current Security Council President did say to you in this room that he was expecting that the sort of rules for access that had been prevailing previously would be the ones followed now. So, we’ll see how that develops. But at this stage, a range of discussions on this are ongoing.
Question: Farhan, you must have given something on Kyrgyzstan on top of the briefing, I’m sure, as soon as you started off. What does the Secretary-General have to say about some of the people saying that his visit over there triggered off all these things, and that he is partly responsible, his visit is partly responsible for what happened?
Associate Spokesperson: The Secretary-General, while he is in Vienna today, has been speaking extensively to different audiences about his recent travels, including to Kyrgyzstan. One of the things he is mentioning, in a speech to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that we’re going to put out, I think, fairly shortly, is the need throughout the region of Central Asia to deal with a number of root causes for various tensions and the idea that these root causes were what was behind the unrest that has happened in Kyrgyzstan. For his part, as he told the press just today in Vienna, he said that he was able to feel the tension in the air while he was visiting Kyrgyzstan. And certainly he had stressed the need by all to protect human rights and to deal with their differences peacefully. So that’s really what he thinks. But certainly, in terms of what’s behind these tensions, he’s made it clear in his speeches that there are a number of root causes, long-running economic and other social grievances that need to be addressed.
Question: His visit was just the thing that broke the camel’s back, basically that’s what happened. It was already there, as you said.
Associate Spokesperson: I wouldn’t want to speculate on that kind of role. Certainly, what he had made clear is that even when he got there, it was very clear that the situation on the ground was tense.
Question: Farhan, another thing. Has the Secretary-General’s Office received another formal request from Pakistan to postpone this Benazir Bhutto’s report until July?
Associate Spokesperson: You’ve asked this a number of times, and in fact I was in touch with the members of the Commission of Inquiry, and what they said to me even just over the past 24 hours is that, again, they have stressed that the work of the Commission is done, and that their report will be presented on 15 April.
And if that’s it, then I wish you all a good afternoon. And again, at 12:45 p.m. today, there will be a press conference by DPI concerning the SPIRIT initiative that was developed in partnership with Columbia University.
Thanks very much.
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