|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.
I have the following statement to read out. It is being issued today by the Quartet. As you are aware, the Quartet brings together the United Nations, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States.
The Quartet welcomes the first round of proximity talks between Israelis and Palestinians. These talks are a significant step toward direct, bilateral negotiations and comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its neighbours. The Quartet calls on the parties to pursue these talks in good faith and offers its support for their efforts. The Quartet calls on all concerned to promote an atmosphere conducive to the talks and to act on the basis of previous agreements and obligations.
**Secretary-General’s Statement on Iraq
I also have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Iraq.
The Secretary-General strongly condemns the wave of terrorist bombings and other attacks in Iraq yesterday that reportedly claimed the lives of over a hundred people and injured many more, mostly civilians. The United Nations stands in solidarity with the Iraqi people in the face of these deplorable, unjustifiable acts.
The United Nations and the Government of Iraq signed today the first United Nations Development Assistance Framework for Iraq for the period 2011-2014. That framework marks a new strategic partnership between the funds, programmes and agencies of the United Nations and the Government of Iraq.
Christine McNab, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, said that today is an historic day for the UN and Iraq as they strengthen their partnership to achieve a better future for Iraq and its people. And we have a press release with more details in my office.
The Security Council is holding an open meeting today to receive updates from the chairs of its Committees dealing with Al-Qaida and the Taliban, Counter-Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) issued new guidelines to Governments today on the protection of people fleeing Somalia. The guidelines seek to establish a consistent approach to assisting Somalis fleeing the violence in their country.
They encourage Governments to process applications for refugee status from people out of central and southern Somalia in the broadest possible way. This is already the practice in Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Yemen, the agency says. UNHCR also advises all Governments to extend other forms of protected status, in line with international rules and practice, where full refugee status is not granted.
Somalis continue to flee the violence in ever growing numbers. UNHCR says that there are now some 1.4 million civilians displaced inside Somalia and more than 575,000 Somali refugees in neighbouring countries.
As I mentioned yesterday, the Secretary-General will be attending a conference in Istanbul at the end of next week on Somalia.
And as I also mentioned about a briefing: There will be a briefing indeed during the noon briefing tomorrow by B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs; and Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia. And they will be joined by Ambassador Ertuğrul Apakan, the Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nations.
So, that’s it. Questions, please.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Martin, on Somalia, the fate of these, the Somalia boat, the pirates that were captured by the Russians and the report that came out this morning that the Russians don’t know their whereabouts. They suppose they could all be dead. Is there a statement on that or do you have any update?
Spokesperson: No, no. We’re obviously seeing the same press reports that you are. But we don’t have any further information on the fate of those people. Yes, other questions.
Question: Martin, the thing is, yesterday, I had asked you a question about Palestine, you remember, you said you had not read that thing. Do you have an answer for me?
Spokesperson: As I understand it, my Office provided you with some information. And the answer I gave you still stands. And also, as you came in late, you’ll also know, you’ll also find out that there is a Quartet statement on the proximity talks which might be useful for you. Okay.
Question: Martin, do you know if the Secretary-General will be attending the soccer World Cup in South Africa, and what his thoughts are on Africa’s first World Cup? It’s a month away.
Spokesperson: Well, he is keenly aware that the World Cup is indeed taking place in South Africa. It’s clearly a major development not just for South Africa, but for Africa, the continent as a whole. The Secretary-General is actively considering his presence there during the World Cup. Exactly what form that will take, if it takes place at all, is still not fully decided. But clearly, there are a number of aspects to this. This is a wonderful festival of sport, of course. But it also brings together many people who are able to talk about other things as well on the sidelines. And I think that that is part of the extra value that the Secretary-General would see in addition to the great exciting sport event that the World Cup obviously is. So, once we have any more details we will let you know.
Question: Martin, did you say “as to what form it takes place”? You mean, he will be there personally?
Spokesperson: I said the Secretary-General is actively considering this, but we don’t have any announcement. When we have an announcement, we’ll let you know. He is actively considering it.
Question: Sure. I have two questions about Afghanistan. One is, it’s reported that the upcoming parliamentary elections there; this IEC [Independent Election Commission] official, Zakaria Barakzai, has said that the UN will make up a funding shortfall of some $40 million. Is that the case? What is going to be the UN’s financial contribution or activity in connection with that election?
Spokesperson: We need to find out the exact numbers for you, if you’re giving me numbers like this. I am not familiar with those. I would need to find out.
Question: Also it’s reported, including by the UN’s own ReliefWeb, that the Afghan Government has cancelled the licences of 172 non-governmental organizations, including 20 international NGOs. I’m wondering if the UN, as it did in Sudan, for example, has any comment on this cancelling of licences of NGOs.
Spokesperson: This is something that our colleagues in Kabul are probably very familiar with. I have not heard; my colleagues here in New York have not heard any particular word from the Mission there. If we have something, then we will obviously let you know.
Question: There is also a report today that, both by the BBC and the Red Cross, of the discovery of a black jail; i.e., an unreported interrogation centre on the Bagram Air Force Base that the United States runs in Afghanistan. I wonder if it’s, if that is anything that the UNAMA [United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan] or its human rights component has ever heard of? Do they intend to investigate it? Do they have any comment on it?
Spokesperson: That’s something for the United States. This is a United States base; it’s for the United States to comment on. We’ve seen the reports.
Question: Does UNAMA have any human rights component? Doesn’t the UN have some role, where it has a peacekeeping mission, to investigate claims like this?
Spokesperson: The UN’s mandate there is very clear and this particular story — obviously we’ve seen that story on the BBC. This is something that you can clearly ask the US. Any other questions? James, it’s really much better if you come further down, please. Where there are microphones. Thanks. It’s like one of those game shows.
Question: I know, I know, I just walked in late, so I sat up there. First thing, following on from the query about the Secretary-General’s attendance at the World Cup: could we put in a request if he is willing to travel with journalists? I’m sure there will be some of us interested in going on that trip; possibly to an England game!
Spokesperson: Join the queue outside!
Question: [laughter] My question is on the Human Rights Council elections which are on Thursday. Quite a few coalitions of rights groups are a bit dissatisfied with the elections. They’re saying these clean slates in all of the five regional groupings make them undemocratic. I think they are saying that it means that the General Assembly isn’t living up to its suggestion. It’s selecting States which have the highest accountability for human rights. Obviously this is an easy one for the Secretariat to say, “Well, this is down to the Member States.” But I was wondering if the Secretary-General does have any position on this, or whether he would ever consider using his Office to advance a position that the Member States should be more democratic in their choice.
Spokesperson: I think you have pre-empted my answer, because it clearly is a matter for Member States. The rules that govern how countries are selected and elected is something that they have decided, and it’s for them to discuss and to vote and to explain. Okay. Any other questions?
Question: I actually have Sudan and Haiti. On Sudan, the Government has called for the arrest of JEM [Justice and Equality Movement] leader Khalil Ibrahim, and JEM has responded by saying if he is arrested, they will renew outright war in Darfur. I wonder if Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari, UNAMID [United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur], Mr. [Haile] Menkerios, the Secretary-General, does anyone following this have anything to say about this deterioration of conditions?
Spokesperson: I’m sure my colleagues on the ground are following every twist and turn that is happening to the best of their ability, but we don’t need to comment on every single media report that comes out about the twists and turns that you refer to.
Question: I mean, it seems like the JEM is the major rebel group in Darfur, and when they threaten to go back to war…
Spokesperson: I’m familiar with who they are and what they are. But we can’t take a kind of a drip, drip approach to this, okay. And on Haiti, you wanted to ask about Haiti.
Question: Yes, absolutely. The protests in Port-au-Prince of President [René] Préval’s proposal to extend his term. There are reports of some of the crowds surging at UN trucks and being rebuffed with tear gas. It’s unclear who is firing the tear gas; whether it’s the police or MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti]. Can you say…
Spokesperson: It’s very clear, Matthew. It’s very clear. The Haitian National Police used tear gas. And MINUSTAH and UN Police were present, but there was no violence involved on the part of the MINUSTAH Police. One MINUSTAH vehicle was slightly damaged. And that’s what happened.
Question: Does MINUSTAH and the UN — do they support the use of tear gas by the Haitian National Police in this case?
Spokesperson: That’s a matter for the Haitian National Police.
Question: It seem like it’s being fired to protect the UN; so, it seems like…
Spokesperson: Well, I wasn’t there; and neither were you, so we don’t know exactly what the circumstances were. But all I can say is that, as MINUSTAH have advised us, the Haitian National Police used tear gas, MINUSTAH was there and was involved in the crowd control, so to speak, without the use of violence. And that’s what I have for you. Okay. Alright. Anything else? No? Thank you very much. Thank you.
* *** *