|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, and welcome to the briefing.
**Guest at Noon
My guest today will be Miroslav Jenča, who is the Special Representative for and Head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia. And he will participate via audio link from Bishkek, and we’re still trying to establish that link. So we’ll come back to that in just a little while.
And just to remind you that the Secretary-General will speak to reporters today, at approximately 3:10 p.m., at the stakeout position on the second floor of the North Lawn Building.
The Security Council has been holding an open meeting this morning to hear briefings by Prosecutors Serge Brammertz of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and Hassan Jallow of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. They are updating the Council on recent developments in their investigations, courtroom proceedings, Member States’ cooperation, as well as their respective offices’ completion strategies. The two Prosecutors intend to hold a joint press encounter at the Security Council stakeout position after the meeting.
The Council is also being briefed by the Tribunals’ Presidents, Judge Patrick Robinson of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and Judge Dennis Byron of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. We have in my office copies of the speeches by both the Prosecutors and Tribunals’ Presidents. Later this afternoon, Council members will be holding closed consultations on Somalia and other matters.
A reminder that the Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council on the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is out as a document.
**The Week Ahead at the United Nations
Just a few items for the week ahead. As usual, the document itself is available from my office. But here are just a couple of the highlights.
This Sunday is World Refugee Day, and there are UN activities planned around that. You can find out more at the UN refugee agency website. But perhaps one particularly interesting and noteworthy event is that the Empire State Building here in New York will be illuminated in blue light to mark the occasion on Sunday.
On Monday, I’ll have here as guests the Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning, Bob Orr; the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Jomo Kwame Sundaram; and UNDP’s Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau for Development Policy, Olav Kjørven. They will give a preview of the UN Secretary-General’s messages for the G-20 summit, the Millennium Development Goals Report 2010, the impact of the economic crisis on the most vulnerable, and other matters.
And then on Tuesday, there will be a background briefing on the Millennium Development Goals Report for 2010. And this will be by a senior official from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, one of the lead authors of the report. And on Wednesday morning, the Secretary-General will be here to speak to you about his vision for the G-20 summit, and to launch that Millennium Development Goals report.
Now, I am happy to take a couple of questions on other topics not related to Kyrgyzstan. And I would also like to remind you, as I have said, that the Secretary-General will be at the stakeout a little bit later this afternoon.
**Questions and Answers
Question: In terms of the withdrawal of peacekeepers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it seems like now the Senegalese battalion has left. Could you confirm that the next one to leave is the Benin battalion? And some have said that it seems strange to be taking out the Francophone component of the peacekeeping mission when it’s [French] they speak there. And can you confirm that Ban Ki-moon is going to be travelling to the DRC?
Spokesperson: On that contingent I’ll ask colleagues in DPKO. I’m sure they’ll be able to tell you. And on the second, I think that there will be an announcement quite soon. I think the Secretary-General will be able to tell you about that this afternoon.
Question: On Somalia, when does Ambassador Mahiga take over from Ould-Abdallah?
Spokesperson: I have to find out.
Question: I may have asked this a couple of weeks ago, but the issue has gotten more pointed since. There is a defence lawyer of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda called Peter Erlinder that was arrested on 28 May in Rwanda for genocide ideology. A lot of defence lawyers around the world have said that if you start arresting defence lawyers for representing their clients, then no one will defend these defendants. I guess what I am wondering is, I’d seen a response from the ICTR saying that they’re not sure if the arrest was in connection with his work for the Tribunal. Many lawyers’ associations don’t agree with that and are calling for action by the UN. I’m wondering if the Secretariat has any view on this matter?
Spokesperson: Two points. The first is that you, probably the same as me, have seen media reports that say that Mr. Erlinder has actually been released on bail. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that I would anticipate that we’d have something to say about it a little bit later today.
Question: About this Israeli announcement of easing the blockade that was somehow welcomed by the Secretary-General, or he saw it with promise. How is it going to be verifiable? Who is going to say that, yes, in fact that has taken place?
Spokesperson: As I said to you yesterday, we chose our language carefully; or the Secretary-General chose his language carefully. I said he was encouraged by the Israeli decision. And then, as you know, he went on to spell out that he thinks that more progress needs to be made. And he also said that he’d asked Robert Serry to be in touch urgently with the Israeli authorities to look into the details of it. And I think it is precisely in that interaction that you would be able to see the kind of verification that you’re mentioning. And also, UNRWA, the relief agency working in Gaza, amongst other places, with Palestinian refugees would also have a role in that.
Question: So you have not heard anything from Mr. John Ging yet?
Spokesperson: Not at this point. As I say, Mr. Serry was asked by the Secretary-General to be in touch with the Israelis yesterday, and that was immediately after the decision was taken.
Question: Regarding the Secretary-General’s comment this afternoon, as well as the recent development on the description of [the crime of] aggression by ICC, the International Criminal Court, would [the Secretary-General] like to give any comment on the definition’s impact on military conflict?
Spokesperson: First of all, the Secretary-General did put out a statement already, after the ICC Review Conference finished. And secondly, I am not going to pre-empt what my boss is going to say at the stakeout this afternoon.
Question: [inaudible question on the Secretary-General’s press encounter later today]
Spokesperson: The way that it has been billed is simply to say what the opportunity is: just back from Africa, ahead of the G-20, and against the backdrop of various events that have been going on recently. But that doesn’t preclude other questions, of course.
Question: [UN Political Affairs chief] Lynn Pascoe has been quoted that early next week the Secretary-General will at long last be announcing his panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka. Has he already made his decisions and is just waiting for next week? What explains that preview by Mr. Pascoe?
Spokesperson: Presumably because journalists asked him about it at the press conference in Colombo.
Question: So it’s done? The group is selected? It’s all systems go?
Spokesperson: I think you’re right.
Question: And did Mr. Pascoe… There was just a victory parade carried out by the Government of Sri Lanka. I wanted to know whether Pascoe’s visit was timed to coincide with that or coincide with the visit of Mr. Akashi of Japan and other officials.
Spokesperson: Absolutely not, absolutely not. And in fact, the parade is taking place today. Mr. Pascoe is not there. He is not in Sri Lanka.
Question: And will he speak with us when he comes back, do you think?
Spokesperson: I am almost certain he will. The phone is ringing. I guess one of points is that Mr. Jenča has been in Bishkek now, at the request of the Secretary-General, to liaise with regional organizations and with the Kyrgyz authorities. And the time difference with New York is 10 hours. So he is already burning not quite the midnight oil, but it’s late there. So it’s very good of him to hang on to do this briefing. I hope that we can get through to him.
Question: Where is Mr. Jenča based?
Spokesperson: He is based in Ashgabat. He is based in Ashgabat; the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy is based in Ashgabat and is responsible for covering all of the five Central Asian republics. And Mr. Jenča, the first time around, in April, did go along with Mr. Kubish, both of whom have long experience in Central Asia, know the region very well.
Question: [on which organizations the UN is working with locally]
Spokesperson: It’s regional organizations, so with the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and with the European Union, both of which have their own special envoys on the spot. So, the three organizations are coordinating extremely closely. They’re also liaising with the Russians, with the Americans and with the Kyrgyz authorities, and of course with the Uzbek authorities. So, there is a lot of joined up thinking going on here, not least on the two key strands. One is peace and security, ensuring that law and order can be re-established, and of course, in tandem, trying to get aid to those who need it; the many people who have been displaced, either within Kyrgyzstan or have fled across into Uzbekistan.
Question: Can I ask you a follow-up question?
Spokesperson: By all means.
Question: While you were away I had asked Farhan about a quote that was attributed to the Secretary-General when he was the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, in which he called a pipeline by Daewoo across Myanmar a win-win situation. Farhan said he would be looking into it and see if the Secretary-General still believed in that characterization. Even another journalist, I believe, has also asked Farhan and he said he still doesn’t have an answer. Is it possible to get an answer of what the Secretary-General’s view of that pipeline is?
Spokesperson: If Farhan said he was going to look into, I am sure he is. And when there is an answer we will give it to you.
Question: It seems like you said your boss is back, so it seems it’s not impossible to get an answer.
Spokesperson: It may well be the case. There are many things on his plate.
Question: I know that Mr. Nambiar was on sort of a Myanmar-related trip. What explains the timing? Is it about the elections, and just as Mr. Pascoe may brief us about Sri Lanka, could Mr. Nambiar brief about his work on the good offices of Myanmar?
Spokesperson: I’ll ask him.
Question: Do you [know] what it was seeking to accomplish?
Spokesperson: There was a very clear explanation given at the start by Farhan as well, here in this briefing room, and I don’t have anything to add to that.
Question: And has it been a successful trip? Is it still on?
Spokesperson: No, no. I was in a meeting with him this morning. So unless he is in two places at one time, no. But as I say, we can ask, for sure.
Spokesperson: Miroslav, good to hear your voice. It’s Martin Nesirky here in the briefing room with journalists who’ve been eagerly awaiting to hear from you. And first of all, thank you so much for being on the line late into the evening in Bishkek after, I am sure, another very busy day. Maybe the best thing is if you could say a few introductory words, and then I’ll hand over for questions here from the journalists. And I guess we could look at maybe 20 minutes or so. Let’s see how it goes. Over to you.
Mr. Jenča: Good afternoon to everybody. I have been working here very closely with the Interim Government, with the special envoys of regional organizations like OSCE, European Union and others, Russian Special Envoy was here as well. The priority is to ensure humanitarian access to those in need in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan. We’re progressing here. Yesterday the mission of the UN; staff members here in Bishkek travelled there together with local authorities, with Interim Minister for Defence and the Minister for Emergency Situations. They agreed that they would have a presence at Osh airport. Regrettably, our offices in Osh city are not, one would say, secure enough yet to start operations there.
As far as humanitarian assistance is concerned, so we continue providing support from warehouses we have here. We expect two planes to land quite soon in Osh airport and to provide [the] necessary stuff to the people there in Osh and Jalalabad. Also, when we speak about assistance we need to prepare for the future. So today, maybe in a few hours, a flash appeal to donors will be released and we hope that there will be very active response to this flash appeal.
So this would be just for the beginning, and I am here ready to answer the questions; at least I will try to answer them. Over.
Spokesperson: Thank you very much, Miroslav. So questions. Please, maybe you could, as we’re disembodied at both ends, identify yourselves; say who you are and who you work for. Please, first question.
Question: Do you have enough people in Osh and Jalalabad to distribute aid to the people?
Mr. Jenča: For the time being we are cooperating with Red Cross and local NGOs here. We are in the process of deploying people there after ensuring conditions for proper [deployment]. As I mentioned, our team was there yesterday with the Minister of Defence and other official representatives of the Kyrgyz Government. So this is work in progress. On the other side of the border in Uzbekistan, there the situation is different because the conflict was on the other side of the border, so there is quite a strong presence already and the Uzbek Government is cooperating significantly here.
Question: There are conflicting figures; there are 400,000 or 500,000 people displaced, becoming refugees. What is the exact number and are those refugees coming back, or are they still outside the country? Have you been able to verify anything of that sort as of yet?
Mr. Jenča: Regrettably we have not been able to verify these figures [because one] cannot move freely and the security problems are there. The situation is quite fluid. As to the figures provided by OCHA, we estimate the total of 300,000 IDPs in Kyrgyzstan, and between 80,000 to 100,000 refugees on the Uzbek territories. There is still some movement going forward.
Question: Today at the US State Department, Secretary of State Clinton said, “It would be premature for people to conclude what the source of this violence is, meaning Kyrgyzstan. But there are a number of facts contributing. She said the US and the UN are seeking the cause of the unrest. What do you think of that? Is the UN seeking the cause of the unrest? Is there any doubt about it?
Mr. Jenča: We are, of course, looking at what happened there but I think here a proper investigation should take place. And such investigation should be part of a reconciliation and confidence-building process. There is a lot of hatred, tension, emotions, and one of the major challenges we have here is to have a proper reconciliation process. So an investigation should go hand in hand with reconciliation and confidence-building.
Question: From the people you’ve talked to, do they feel they would be more secure with the presence of some outside security force? And is this something that you believe could be helpful in reducing tensions, and is it something that is being discussed with all of the key players that you’ve been in contact with?
Mr. Jenča: I have talked to the people here, so many of them voiced this opinion, meaning that they think that some presence, an international presence, would be needed. We have been discussing issues like this with our partners and definitely there are a lot of challenges as far as police are concerned. So we also discussed how these issues could be addressed in the best way. Since it is about an international presence, it requires consultation with other countries in the region and the organizations that would be able to ensure such a presence. Here I have to also add, it is about the decision by the Interim Government here. As you know, the chief of the Interim Government, Roza Otunbayeva, requested Russian leadership to send military forces, but in fact requested protection of strategic objects, like dams, and the latest I heard was that there has been some progress here.
Question: You came out very strongly saying that the referendum should definitely go forward on 27 June, but many people are saying with this many people both having been chased out of the country and others displaced, that in fact, certainly the ethnic Uzbeks that would be entitled to vote otherwise might be disenfranchised if it is done that fast. Why are you so in favour of rushing forward with the referendum and what safeguards will there be that the group targeted here is actually able to vote? And a question about borders, there are now reports that Kazakhstan has closed its borders to ethnic Uzbeks with Kyrgyz passports. What is your office [at the] Regional Centre doing about these border closings, mostly by Uzbekistan, but now by Kazakhstan [too]? Do you see this as a problem, and what is the UN system going to do to try to make sure that people that need to flee or are fleeing, [or] can flee?
Mr. Jenča: To your first question concerning referendum, I think that [inaudible] what I said is that also it is up to the Kyrgyz Government, to the Kyrgyz power structures, to decide when the referendum should take place, keeping in mind the situation on the ground. It is, after all, a Kyrgyz process. We are the United Nations, advising the Central Asian Commission on the need to have an inclusive process and technically sound votes, including consideration of the factor of IDP participation. The situation and environment for the referendum is fluid and, therefore, we will continue to follow very closely. So recently I had a meeting with the chair of the Central Election Commission and he was very confident that the election could take place as planned. However, as I mentioned, the situation is fluid and we have to follow it very closely.
To your second question, what we are doing as far as the border issue, it’s a concern. We are in close touch with Kazakh authorities and also with the Kazakh [inaudible] chairmanship envoy in Kyrgyzstan on this issue. We have proposed to the Kazakh side support if there are security concerns related to borders. Together with other regional organizations, the United Nations and other regional organizations can help with solving these issues and concerns in order to ensure there is free passage of people and of goods through the border.
Question: I wanted to know, you talked about Kazakhstan, is the UN system asking Islam Karimov to open the border with Uzbekistan? Is that issue being raised to Uzbekistan? Is that the position of the UN?
Mr. Jenča: I think this issue was raised also during the discussion between the Secretary-General and President Karimov and actually the Secretary-General, if I am well informed, commended President Karimov for allowing the refugees in big numbers to go to the Uzbek territory. The cooperation with Uzbekistan during this crisis has been very constructive.
Question: I wanted to ask one follow-up question to your response to a possible international presence. At this moment how would you assess the prospects for getting some kind of an international presence on the ground in Kyrgyzstan?
Mr. Jenča: I already mentioned that this is a process that requires proper consultations because it is not a simple question, so this is where we stand and I do not like to go into speculation here.
Question: There are reports regarding the possible involvement of militia groups or groups that are linked with the military in perpetrating some of the attacks. What kind of information do you have on that? Is there any solid basis to these reports that we are getting?
Mr. Jenča: We have received different bits and pieces of such information from different sources, including media. Here I can only underline once more that proper investigation is needed; investigation that would go hand in hand with reconciliation and confidence-building processes in the country, because the country is quite divided along different dividing lines.
Question: A follow-up to something you mentioned at the beginning. You said at the beginning that the UN Office in Osh is not secure enough for UN personnel to work from there? Can you describe a little bit the situation? We’re hearing the city is divided with barricades along ethnic lines. Can you explain where exactly is this office and why it can’t be staffed?
Mr. Jenča: You can get to the Osh airport in the region but if you want to get to the city you need armed protection because you are passing through different parts of the city, and you mentioned that in some enclaves there are barricades. There is enormous distrust of local people, notably Uzbeks. They don’t trust authorities, and they are very suspicious of anybody getting closer to them. As I mentioned, our team was there yesterday and they needed armed protection to go there, and our office is in the city and, therefore, we have to pass along the dangerous areas. The office in the city is in good shape. It was not damaged but at this time it is not possible to go back there and start working there. We are still considering whether local staff members — some of them are still in Osh — can operate there in our offices in Osh city. This is the situation and why we decided, together with the Interim Government, to establish our presence at the airport in order to ensure efficient humanitarian assistance to those in need.
Question: I just want to ask this question I asked earlier but since you are there on the ground, maybe you’ll be able to answer this. There are reports read again and again that this crisis was deliberately set off by somebody in the Kyrgyz Government, some of the opponents of the Government or within. Have you verified these reports, have you looked into them, as to who’s responsible, if at all it is?
Mr. Jenča: I can only repeat what I said. A proper investigation is needed. We don’t have here now proper resources to do so. [But] first of all, it is [the Government’s] responsibility to ensure such a process takes place. Let me say now, we are focused on the immediate priority. And the immediate priority is to ensure that the people in need who are there in refugee camps or displaced people, that they get what they need to survive. This is our immediate priority and this is going to be our focus now.
Spokesperson: Thank you very much, Miroslav, for your update on what is going on and for speaking to us late in the evening from Bishkek. Wish you well and maybe we can catch up with you again in the coming days to have another update.
Mr. Jenča: Thank you very much and good afternoon to all of you.
Spokesperson: Thank you very much and bye for now.
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