|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. And I am pleased to welcome here with us today a group of journalists from the Mohila School of Journalism in Kyiv, Ukraine. And I can also tell you that Jean Victor Nkolo, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, will be here to brief you a little bit later, too.
There are a couple of press conferences that we have. This afternoon at 2 p.m., the Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will be here to brief you on the outcomes of the ninth session of the Forum, which ends today. And then at 2:30 p.m., the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein will hold a press conference about the Review Conference on the International Criminal Court.
The Secretary-General has appointed Atul Khare of India as Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. Mr. Khare replaces Edmond Mulet of Guatemala, who was appointed on 1 April as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti for one year. Mr. Khare most recently served as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Timor-Leste. And we have more information on this in my office.
The Secretary-General this morning addressed a seminar on the International Criminal Court (ICC), which he described as the centrepiece of our system of international criminal justice. He said that he attaches great importance to its work and to the common drive to ensure that the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide do not go unpunished.
The Secretary-General said that, at the Assembly of ICC States parties in Kampala, Uganda, in June, he will call on every nation to become a party to the Rome Statute. We have his remarks in my office, and you will also be able to find them online.
And at 2:30 p.m. today, there will be a briefing by Ambassador Christian Wenaweser, President of the Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court, and William Pace, the Convenor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, and they will brief you on the Review Conference.
And then later today, the Secretary-General will deliver remarks at the second Conference of States Parties and Signatories to Treaties that Establish Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia. He will encourage those nations to make next week’s Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference a success. And we also have that text for you in my office.
The Security Council is currently in consultations on Western Sahara. The Council is considering a draft resolution on the extension of the UN Mission there, the current mandate of which expires at the end of the day.
Today is also the last day of the Japanese presidency of the Security Council. Lebanon will assume the rotating Council presidency for the month of May.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said that the humanitarian community is facing a serious funding shortage which is jeopardizing basic lifesaving activities in north-western Pakistan. Many agencies have said that projects have to be cut back or shut down, and new ones are not being implemented because of a lack of funding. Two months after the launch of the humanitarian appeal for Pakistan, it is only 24 per cent funded.
Health projects in Pakistan have only received 9 per cent of funds, forcing some health facilities to close. Food assistance is only around 28 per cent funded. This means if financial assistance is not received urgently, there is a risk that vital programmes will have to be suspended.
**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, has returned from a visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. During her visit, she acknowledged the Government’s public health achievements, such as good immunization coverage and the effective implementation of maternal, newborn and child health interventions.
However, despite the success achieved, she said that challenges remain. She emphasized that the health system requires further strengthening to sustain universal coverage, and to improve the quality of service. We have more on this in a press release from the World Health Organization, available in my office.
**Secretary-General -- Embargoed Remarks
And just as a planning note, we hope to be able to send out to you over the weekend an embargoed version of the Secretary-General’s speech to be delivered on Monday morning to the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
**The Week Ahead at the United Nations
And also we will be circulating, for planning purposes as usual, “The Week Ahead at the United Nations” for the coming week.
Okay, so that’s what I have for you, and I have time for questions.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Martin, there were four Palestinians killed yesterday in a tunnel, allegedly by poison gas by the Egyptian police. Did you get any information about that, and what is the position of the United Nations on this?
Spokesperson: I have no information on that, Nisar, no. We have seen the reports like you have. And you also know the standard position of the United Nations on this topic.
Question: Did you have anyone ask about it? I mean, this is a very serious thing, if it is true. Being gassed to death by…
Spokesperson: Well, there are various reports, not just saying what you are saying, but there are reports that suggest other causes. So there are lots of reports out there. I’ve seen them, you’ve seen them. You’ve pointed to one of them, and clearly colleagues in the field would want to understand what is happening. But I don’t have anything for you at the moment, firstly. Secondly, you know our standard position on this topic, on the tunnels.
Question: Yeah, Martin, this is about the one that you read about Pakistan and the shortfall in funds and scale back in operations. But that has been going on for a long time. This particular report comes out from Islamabad, right? The one that you read?
Spokesperson: This is from OCHA.
Question: In Islamabad or in Geneva?
Spokesperson: It doesn’t really matter where it is from. It’s the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. I’ve simply given you a précis, an overview of a much more detailed assessment which they have, and I know that my colleagues in OCHA would be very happy to give you more details.
Correspondent: I remember I heard about it last week. I asked you what happened to the World Food Programme, and then it says the Secretary-General and the United Nations have scaled back. But this seems to be going on now. Even now that the violence has somewhat subsided, but still the UN operations have slowed down, and as there is about, like, 1.8 billion IDPs [internally displaced persons], and about 250,000 of them are in Swat. So basically what is happening is that the UN is scaling back and this is part of the whole thing, because if there is a shortfall in funds, you will not be able to fund those projects any more.
Spokesperson: I think that’s mixing apples and oranges here. I mean, this is talking very clearly about a shortfall in funding. This is not a reflection of security concerns. This is a reflection of a shortage of cash. After the appeal, as I told you, it’s seriously underfunded, the appeal is seriously underfunded. And that is something different from talking about the security situation.
Correspondent: If anything it’s that they seem to be converging at some point. There is a shortfall of funds, you’re going to stop this.
Spokesperson: You say that, not me. I would urge you, if you want to pursue it a little bit further in more details, it’s probably best to speak to the World Food Programme or OCHA, who are actually operating on the ground and they can probably give you a better readout on that. But, as I say, and as I have mentioned earlier in the week, this is in essence a reiteration, sounding the alarm even more loudly about the shortfall in funding and the need for donors to be as generous as they have been in the past to help the people of Pakistan.
Question: Another issue. Amnesty International criticized the trials of the so-called Hizbullah cell in Egypt, and they said that they should be retried. What’s the position of the United Nations in this respect?
Spokesperson: This is a matter for Egypt and not for the United Nations. This is an internal matter…
Correspondent: But it is an unfair trial, as said.
Spokesperson: Nisar, it is an internal matter for Egypt, okay?
Question: There are these reports in Chad. The Chadian Government claims to have killed 105 rebels near the Sudan border. I wonder what the UN knows about this, and how it may or may not relate to MINURCAT [United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad] or other UN missions in the area, or has any comment on this reported large killing?
Spokesperson: We can’t confirm the death toll in that fighting. And the closest that MINURCAT is to that location where the reported clash has taken place is about 150 kilometres away. It’s not related, clearly, to the discussions about the future of MINURCAT.
Question: I guess that, since MINURCAT does have this mandate of to some degree protection of civilians, is it that it is geographically out of MINURCAT’s zone or that it is viewed as being a military conflict not affecting civilians?
Spokesperson: I think it is simply geography and logistics rather than mandate here. It’s just where they are located at the moment. It doesn’t mean that they’re not trying to find out. They are trying to find out what is going on. But at the moment they can’t confirm the figure that you are saying now. We have seen the same reports. We can’t confirm that. We have also seen the denial from the other side. What we can say is that, clearly, the Mission would like to know what is going on and is trying to do precisely that: to find out.
Question: Just one follow-up on this. The Chadian ambassador was just telling me that the area in which this took place is, has been for a long time, heavily landmined by what he called this rebel group which he alleges works with the LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army] and with the forces that Mr. [Jean-Pierre] Bemba used to command in the Central African Republic. So what I wonder is, given the UN’s overarching … has the UN ever, maybe you’ll know this so you could, have they ever done mine removal or mine action? What is the UN’s degree of access to the geographical area that this is in? I wouldn’t expect, if you can look into that …
Spokesperson: Sure. Happy to do so.
Question: Okay. And I wanted to ‑‑ there is this, Sanjaya Bahel, who was a UN procurement official [who] actually served time for irregularities during his tenure here at the UN. His apartment was recently auctioned and court records show that the UN is actually going to get some part of the proceeds, as well as his son. This is, there is a Wall Street Journal article, I will highlight that to you. But at least there is a federal court proceeding, a pretty high-profile corruption case. I guess I wanted to know, you know, how much is the UN getting? How is it going to be…? Is it just going to go into the UN’s general fund, or is it somehow going to try to be, to make up for harm done by Mr. Bahel in what he was convicted of? And did the UN have any input into proceeds that may be due to the UN actually going to Mr. Bahel’s son? Are you aware of this?
Spokesperson: I am aware of the case in general, but not the specifics. And I’d have to find out for you. I don’t have that for you now.
Question: This is, it’s now been seven weeks since the Secretary-General said that without delay a panel of group of experts would be named to advise him on accountability in Sri Lanka. It was also said that Mr. [B. Lynn] Pascoe would be visiting the country. Has a request for Mr. Pascoe to visit been made, and what progress, if any, has there been on naming this group of experts?
Spokesperson: A visit by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, is in the works and is likely to take place fairly soon. We don’t have a date yet, but it’s in, if you like, an active planning phase. So that’s to answer the first point. The second point: the Secretary-General has made clear that this panel of experts will be put together without delay, and I know that that is indeed the case. People are working actively on putting that panel together. It is not complete yet, and neither are the terms of reference. But active work is being done on this and the Secretary-General is very clear that there will be no delay. But it needs to be done properly.
Question: Thank you, Martin. I think [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad will visit the United Nations next Monday, the coming Monday. Do you have more details about this visit here, Martin?
Spokesperson: I don’t have any more details about his particular plans. I’m sure the Iranian Mission can tell you what he is planning to do while he is here. What I can tell you is that a request was made by the Iranian Permanent Mission for a meeting with the Secretary-General. That will take place on Monday. We still haven’t figured out exactly what time, but the Secretary-General will meet President Ahmadinejad on Monday.
Question: On the same subject, do we expect that an answer to his letter will be finished, studied by Monday?
Spokesperson: Let’s see, let’s see. Okay, there are no further questions? Jean Victor. And have a good weekend!
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Bon après-midi, good afternoon.
**General Assembly President in China
We will start with the visit of President Treki to China. H.E. Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, was received today by H.E. Mr. Xi Jinping, Vice-President of China.
They held wide-ranging talks on the global situation covering peace and security, development, regional issues and the challenges posed by the economic and financial, as well as food and energy, crises.
The two sides underlined the relevance and irreplaceable role of the United Nations as the most universal and legitimate mechanism to advance cooperative multilateral solutions to the global crises and problems. They noted the importance of a reformed and strengthened United Nations, better equipped to respond effectively to the common concerns and interests of all Member States.
The Chinese Vice-President expressed China’s strong support for the success of the September 2010 Millennium Development Goals Summit and appreciated Dr. Treki’s initiatives for revitalization of the General Assembly, including the thematic debates focusing attention on important issues of peace and security and international cooperation.
Later in the evening, President Treki attended the banquet hosted by the Chinese President H.E. Mr. Hu Jintao, followed by the opening ceremony of the Shanghai World Expo 2010.
I would also like to add that, yesterday, President Treki held talks in Shanghai with H.E. Mr. Dai Bingguo, State Councillor of China. This is in a separate note to the media that we circulated yesterday.
**Security Council Reform
Something else, some of you have been asking about a briefing by Ambassador Zahir Tanin on the Security Council reform. I would just like to say that Ambassador Tanin is compiling, as we speak, a paper on that important subject. And I think when he has done this, he may well see if and when he can brief you. We will keep you posted on that.
That’s what I have for you today. Questions? If there are no questions, I would like to say hello to the visitors here, and wish all a safe and pleasant weekend. Bye-bye.
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