|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.
**Secretary-General’s Statement on UNRWA
I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
The Secretary-General condemns the vandalism last night by masked armed men at an UNRWA summer games facility in the Gaza Strip. He is very concerned that this is the second such incident in a month. Such attacks are an assault upon the well-being of Gaza’s children, 250,000 of whom attend UNRWA’s summer games for recreation and education, as well as a respite from the difficulties of everyday life in the Strip.
The Secretary-General calls upon the de facto authorities to combat any incitement against United Nations operations, and ensure the safety of UNRWA and other UN personnel and programmes, serving the most vulnerable in Gaza. He calls for those responsible for these incidents to be brought to justice.
**Secretary-General at ECOSOC and G-20
The Secretary-General addressed the high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council this morning, following his return from the G-20 Summit meeting in Toronto. In both places, he emphasized the need to build the global economic recovery from the ground up.
The Secretary-General argued at the summit that we cannot balance budgets on the backs of the world’s poorest people, and we cannot abandon our commitment to the most vulnerable. In Toronto, he focused on three areas of investment that can yield high and immediate returns: jobs; a green recovery; and health and health systems.
In his remarks to the press, after the Economic and Social Council meeting, the Secretary-General also said that he was encouraged by the level of voter turnout in Kyrgyzstan and that it took place in an orderly manner, without the difficulties seen in recent weeks. This clearly demonstrates the aspiration of the people of Kyrgyzstan for peace and stability, he said. And he added that the United Nations will continue to support Kyrgyzstan and its people as they prepare for parliamentary elections later this year.
Staying with Kyrgyzstan, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that the situation on the ground during yesterday’s referendum appeared to be calm, with no security incidents reported by afternoon.
Displacement numbers are still unclear, however. OCHA says that a reported 150 refugees remain in hospitals on the Uzbek side of the border. The official number of refugee returns remains at some 75,000, while the overall estimated number of internally displaced persons in Kyrgyzstan remains at 300,000.
Yesterday, a cargo plane chartered by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) arrived in Osh. It was carrying 800 family-sized tents and 7,000 blankets. Another emergency airlift will take place today, carrying 40 tons of aid, including jerry cans, plastic sheets, kitchen sets, blankets and a portable warehouse.
Relief aid on the two flights will help 30,000 people. Shelter agencies have established a distribution mechanism to ensure that the aid items reach the displaced and returnee population during the next few days.
At 3 this afternoon, the Security Council will hold a formal meeting to hear a briefing on the work of the 1737 Committee, which deals with sanctions on Iran.
After that, the Council will hold a formal meeting, followed by consultations, on the Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA). In his latest report on that Office, which is available online, the Secretary-General calls on the Government of the Central African Republic and all political parties to work to follow up on the recommendations of the political dialogue held in December 2008, including those on security and on armed groups.
The Council’s formal meeting and consultations on the UN Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights (UNDOF), which had been scheduled for this morning, have been rescheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
Despite the Government of Eritrea’s longstanding positions on Somalia and Djibouti, it has recently taken a number of steps towards constructive engagement with its neighbours and the wider international community. This is what the Secretary-General says in his report on Eritrea, which was requested by the Security Council when it imposed sanctions on Eritrea in December 2009.
The Secretary-General also underscored that the long-term peace and stability in the Horn of Africa required a comprehensive approach to address the conflicts in the region. In this respect, progress in implementing the decision of the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission and normalizing relations between the two countries would significantly contribute to promoting stability in the entire region, he says.
**Press Conferences Today
Some press conferences: at 12:30 p.m. today in this room, Geena Davis, the Academy Award-winning actress and founder of the non-profit organization “The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media”, will speak to journalists here. That’s following the opening of, as we mentioned earlier, the 2010 ECOSOC high-level segment.
And also at 12:30 p.m., Derviş Eroğlu, the Turkish Cypriot leader, will speak to correspondents at the stakeout position on the 2nd floor of the North Lawn Building.
**Press Conferences Tomorrow
And press conferences tomorrow here: at 11 a.m., the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Jomo Kwame Sundaram, and the Director of the Development Policy and Analysis Division, Rob Vos, will hold a press conference on the launch of the annual World Economic and Social Survey 2010.
And at 1 p.m., the United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP) will hold a press conference entitled “Women Empowerment through Sport: Civil Society Serving Gender Equality and the MDGs”.
And then at 2:30 p.m., there will be a press conference with Paavo Väyrynen, the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of Finland, in conjunction with the ECOSOC high-level segment which is taking place from 28 June, so from today, until to 2 July.
So, that’s what I have. Questions, please?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Martin, the United Nations is recognizing, rightly so, I would say, the anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda has happened. In few weeks, on 11 July we’re going to have a fifteenth anniversary of Srebrenica genocide. How will that day be remembered at the UN, and whether the Secretary-General will address, in what kind, shape of form that day?
Spokesperson: Let’s find out. I’ll find out and come back to you. Okay.
Question: And also as a follow-up to that then. Will anybody from the United Nations system go down there? There are reports, for example that very high officials from all over the world will attend in Srebrenica, including, which is not confirmed, but [ United States] Vice-President [Joseph] Biden. So my question is: who will attend from UN that event?
Spokesperson: Let’s find out.
Question: On Friday, India detained a ship bound for Pakistan from Bangladesh, which was carrying some weapons, which were being delivered back to the Pakistani troops in Karachi. And the reason for that was that Pakistani troops needed those weapons for their peacekeeping operations in Liberia. This is the story. Now, India has detained that ship because it has explosives. Do you have any reaction to that? Because it was a UN consignment going back to Pakistan.
Spokesperson: Again, I don’t have any details on that. We’ll have to look into it. I’m sorry, I don’t have anything on that. I’m sure my colleagues will help me.
Question: Another thing, I just want to follow up on the attack. Has anybody any information on who are the perpetrators of this particular crime?
Spokesperson: Which particular crime?
Question: On this Gaza, the Gaza games.
Spokesperson: No. Well, we’d very much like to know, and we expect the de facto authorities in Gaza to act pretty promptly to find those responsible and bring them to justice. It’s very clear that this is an attack on children and on their ability not only to have some respite from the real difficulties that they face with everyday life, but also is a chance for them to take part in summer games and to receive further education, which they’re already receiving, many of them, through UNRWA schools in Gaza.
Question: Are there any indications that those perpetrators could be, or maybe they are, the same who did the similar attack in May?
Spokesperson: We don’t know that. All we know is that these were masked armed men who attacked this summer games camp. But we don’t have any further details. I know my colleagues on the ground have been, from UNRWA, have been extremely forthright on their views on this, and this is reflected also in the Secretary-General’s thoughts, which I’ve just relayed here. And it’s really important that the de facto authorities there not only bring those responsible to justice, but also ensure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen in the future. They really need to be able to combat any incitement of this kind.
Question: Does the United Nations have any reaction to this plan being presented by Pakistan for a political settlement in Afghanistan about which President [Barack] Obama commented yesterday and so did the CIA chief?
Spokesperson: What was the last part, again?
Question: I said yesterday President Obama and the CIA chief commented about this plan being promoted by Pakistan to bring about a political settlement in Afghanistan.
Spokesperson: Well, I know that my colleagues at the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan will be looking into that. And I am sure that if they have something for us, they will let us have it quite quickly. But we don’t have anything right now.
Question: But does the United Nations have any information whether President [Hamid] Karzai met Sirajuddin Haqqani, the main Taliban chiefs?
Spokesperson: We’ll have to ask the Mission in Kabul.
Question: I wanted to ask, I heard the statement both by Mr. [Miroslav] Jenca and then reiterated by the Secretary-General this morning about the referendum in Kyrgyzstan. I was wanting to ask: what is the UN’s estimate of the turnout of ethnic Uzbeks? There are some reports that, for example in the border town of Suretash, only a hundred to 4,000 people were able to vote. So, I’m just wondering, what does the UN statement mean when compared to such low turnout numbers reported for ethnic Uzbeks?
Spokesperson: Well, reported by whom?
Question: Associated Press.
Spokesperson: Right. Well, there are a number of things here. First of all, the UN is not observing, and the UN is not counting votes or voters.
Question: Then why are they praising?
Spokesperson: Let me finish, first of all, to try to answer your question. First of all, there is the Central Election Commission. That’s the body which is compiling the figures. So, the figures on turnout will be coming from the Central Election Commission. And I checked their website before I came here; it’s in Kyrgyz and Russian, and there are very detailed figures by each province or district showing the turnout and absolute figures in each case. And of course, overall figures. And that’s the first thing. So I would encourage you to take a look at that. And the second thing is, perhaps more helpfully for you in English, as well as Kyrgyz and Russian; the OSCE’s [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s] office for democratic institutions and human rights has put out a fairly detailed overview in a statement of its preliminary findings and conclusions. This is, as I said, this is preliminary findings, as you might expect, given this is less than 24 hours after the vote itself. But they are quite detailed, and as Mr. Jenca and the Secretary-General have said, they have taken note, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General has taken note of this preliminary assessment by the OSCE and others where it’s clear that there were some shortcomings. That’s clear. That’s obvious. But what they believe is, and this is the assessment that this was largely transparent. And the turnout; again, it’s for the Central Election Commission, firstly, to give those figures. The turnout that seems to be evident, not only from the Central Election Commission in concrete numbers, but also from the more anecdotal evidence, if you like, of the international observer, that there were long-term observers that would tend to suggest that this was a sizeable turnout. And most importantly, that it was peaceful. There weren’t any violent incidents.
Question: Just a quick follow-up. If these were the two bases for the UN’s praise of the election, does the Central Election Commission — apparently you’ve read them in Russian — are these turnout numbers done by ethnicity or simply by geography?
Spokesperson: Not by ethnicity. It’s done by geography; by the region. Yeah.
Question: Does the UN have a particular concern or, I don’t know, maybe “duty” is the wrong word, to the ethnic Uzbeks who were being targeted by violence, left the country, many of them had their ID cards ripped up — is that something, does this statement today mean that they feel, that the UN feels, that the turnout and the ability to vote of the ethnic Uzbeks of southern Kyrgyzstan was sufficient, from the UN’s point of view?
Spokesperson: What we’ve said is that it really does demonstrate the aspiration of the people of Kyrgyzstan for peace and stability and democracy. That’s what we’ve said. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that we’re not suggesting that this is the end of the story, and that somehow this is perfect. It was not. There is work to be done, and the United Nations will continue to provide the technical support that’s required, not least by the Central Election Commission, so that they can improve further and not least so that when we get to the parliamentary elections at the end of this year, they will be in better shape to ensure that it’s as inclusive as possible.
Question: One last one on this, and thanks a lot. I think I had asked last week whether you could confirm what a UN official had told me — which is that the Constitution that was voted on and approved over the weekend on Sunday outlaws political parties based on ethnicity. And if so, that’s why I guess I’d be concerned, I’m wondering if the UN sees any connection between a group being targeted by violence, probably if the Associated Press can be believed, having a lower turnout than other groups and, therefore, in the future being prohibited from organizing around, I guess to protect their rights on the basis of their minority status. Were you able to confirm that that is in the Constitution?
Spokesperson: Not personally. But I am sure that my colleagues in DPA [Department for Political Affairs] can help me with that, and also my colleagues in Bishkek.
Question: Martin, a month and half ago approximately, when I asked you on the issue on the name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, you put it that the UN will not input any kind of time limits for the negotiations. And it was sort of news. In the meantime, we had a new development just last week from the European Union showing a great deal of optimism that in a week probably a high official, I cannot quote him who was that, but it was a high official, that in a week probably we will have a solution. Yet, when we talk to [George] Papandreou, Prime Minister of Greece, he also regretted somehow that we did not have a time limit for this talk. Now, my question is, when Mr. Papandreou met the Secretary-General, did the Secretary-General express the same view, that somehow that more speed or speed up or that even a time limit? I don’t like to put any words to anybody’s mouth.
Spokesperson: Well, we don’t have anything beyond the readout that we’ve already given, except to say it in general terms, not specifically in that meeting, that we’ve been clear and repeatedly clear on the need for the two countries involved to come to an amicable agreement. This involves compromise and this involves obviously the help of the UN Special Adviser in this particular case [Matthew Nimetz]. And so, we don’t really have anything further to add at this point. Yes, we’ve seen the media reports on the pace or otherwise of the negotiations to find a settlement to this, but nothing concrete.
Question: Just a quick follow-up. Do you share that kind of optimism that probably very soon we will have a solution?
Spokesperson: As I’ve said, we don’t have anything concrete. We’ve seen the reports, and this is clearly something that the Secretary-General keeps a close eye on, not least because this is something that has been going on for quite a long time. But to put a time limit on it, I don’t think it’s helpful. Okay.
Question: In Guinea-Bissau, last Friday, the military leader who was the head of the coup last April was named for the top military post in the country, Mr. [Antonio] Indjai. This was something that the UN, the US, and the EU [European Union] is trying to prevent from happening. And I want to know what possibly will be the consequences of this action.
Spokesperson: Okay. Well, I couldn’t hear the question fully, I am afraid, because the microphones are in the lower half here. But if I have understood it correctly, it’s not for me to comment on what the United States and the European Union think about these matters. But I can speak for the United Nations when I have some guidance, and I don’t have it now. Okay. I will need to find out. Thank you.
Question: Martin, on this Pakistani ship, basically this ship is Panamanian. The ship that was detained by India in Calcutta was a Panamanian ship, and the Pakistan Government has protested officially about that ship that was bound from the United Nations back to Pakistan.
Spokesperson: Yeah, I heard what you said the first time as well, but I’ll need to find out. I don’t have anything for you on that, okay. All right, just one more question, I think.
Question: Sure, well, let me slip one in here. Just, because the Secretary-General was going to the DRC, I guess today, and Mr. [Alan] Doss’s tenure expires on Wednesday, given that this OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] report on Mr. Doss has been on the Secretary-General’s desk for some time now; does he intend to rule on it before Alan Doss leaves UN service? And if not, does OIOS have any jurisdiction over Mr. Doss, and what would be the possible penalties if a finding of incorrect action were found? And if he is not going to rule, what does it say about accountability in the UN system?
Spokesperson: That’s many for the price of one there. But I don’t have an answer for you on these. I’ll need to see what I can find out. As far as I know, the answer that I’ve given before still stands. I don’t think there is any change on where it’s located.
Question: On the election in Burundi, it’s said…
Spokesperson: I said one question.
Question: I think you said one answer, not one question.
Spokesperson: That’s a bit strange, Matthew, but what about Burundi?
Question: Tomorrow on the Burundi election, would you have something to say…
Spokesperson: I would be fairly certain that we would have something to say on Burundi, and indeed on Guinea as well. Yeah. I’d be fairly certain about that. Thank you very much.
* *** *