Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

3 August 2010

Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

3 August 2010
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
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 General Assembly President.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon, everybody.

** Lebanon

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, confirms that there has been an exchange of fire between the Lebanese army and the Israeli army along the Blue Line, in the general area of El Adeisse.

UNIFIL has been focused on restoring calm in the area through intensive contacts with both the parties.  To that end, the Acting Force Commander, Brigadier General Santi Bonfanti, decided to personally fly by helicopter to El Adeisse.  The UN Interim Force informed both parties and asked them to stop all firing in the area.  General Bonfanti is already in the El Adeisse area and the situation is quiet.

UNIFIL peacekeepers are deployed in the area.  UNIFIL’s immediate priority is to consolidate the calm, and it is urging both parties to exercise maximum restraint.

**Security Council

The Security Council adopted its programme of work for August this morning.  After that, Council members received a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, concerning the exchange of fire near the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel, which I just mentioned.

At then at 3:00 this afternoon, the Security Council will hold an open meeting on Kosovo.  They will receive a briefing on the Secretary-General’s latest report by the head of the UN Mission in Kosovo, Lamberto Zannier.

And Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia, the Security Council President for August, will brief you on the programme of work over the coming month, directly after my briefing and after Jean Victor Nkolo’s briefing on the General Assembly, which will come right after mine.

**Secretary-General in Japan

The Secretary-General is in Tokyo today, where he told reporters that he was especially honoured to be in Japan as the country and the world commemorate the sixty-fifth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  He said in a press encounter:  “We must do everything we can to build on the current global momentum towards a nuclear-weapon-free world”.

The Secretary-General had a working dinner with the Japanese Foreign Minister, Katsuya Okada, during which they discussed cooperation between the United Nations and Japan, which is the second largest contributor to the UN regular budget and to UN peacekeeping operations.  The Secretary-General lauded Japan's contribution across the range of matters that the United Nations deals with.  They also discussed regional matters, such as the Korean peninsula, Afghanistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Somalia.

Tomorrow morning, the Secretary-General has a full day in Tokyo, including a dialogue with university students and a meeting with Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

** Darfur

The UN-African Union mission in Darfur, UNAMID, says that its Deputy Joint Special Representative, Mohamed Yonis, is in Nyala, South Darfur.  This is the third time in as many days that Yonis has visited the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons, in a bid to help ease tensions there, following recent deadly violence between supporters and opponents of the Doha peace process.  The Mission says that a reconciliation committee has been mediating a peaceful settlement between the opposing sides.

Meanwhile, a UN-led humanitarian assessment team has received Sudanese Government authorization to enter the Kalma camp, the Mission says.

** Pakistan

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the worst floods seen in Pakistan in living memory have devastated towns and villages across Pakistan, mainly in the north-west.  Thousands of people remain trapped by the floods and are awaiting rescue and evacuation by boat or helicopter.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has reached more than 40,000 people with life-saving rations.  More distributions are due to start as WFP mobilizes staff to overcome immense logistical challenges.

UNICEF is providing safe drinking water through tankers to 700,000 people in the worst-affected areas, as well as people sheltering in schools and other spontaneous camps.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has given health kits and emergency medicines that are sufficient for an estimated 200,000 patients for one month.

And the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has distributed some 10,000 tents and other relief supplies to the two worst-hit provinces.  It is trying to reach at least 250,000 of the most vulnerable people, with shelter and essential items.

** Nepal

The UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) is deeply concerned at reports that the Nepal Army and the Maoist army plan to undertake fresh recruitment.  In a press release, the UN Mission restated its position that any recruitment by either the Nepal Army or the Maoist army constitutes a breach of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Agreement on the Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies. 

The Mission in Nepal has written to the Government and the United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, advising them to respect past agreements and to act in this matter with good faith towards the United Nations.  And we have a press release with more details.

**Guest Tomorrow

As I have mentioned, Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, will be here as a guest at the noon briefing tomorrow, and he will be joined by Assistant Secretary-General Atul Khare.  That’s it.  Questions, please?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  On Pakistan, will there be some sort of a briefing on the situation as it exists, by OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs], over here or in Geneva?

Spokesperson:  As I understand it, there was information made available in Geneva.  We’re making information, as you can see, pulling together information that we have here in New York as well.  I’d be very happy to pass on your request to OCHA.

Question:  On another matter.  In the last few weeks, I have been asking about the Indian Army’s action in occupied Kashmir and, despite the appeals by the Secretary-General for restraint, the Indian Army took action the day before yesterday and yesterday, wherein five Kashmiris were killed.  Is there something else the Secretary-General would like to say to the Indian Government?

Spokesperson:  No, no.

Question:  Can I follow up?  Because there was a statement, there’s a story in the Press Trust of India today, saying that a controversy has arisen around a statement that Farhan Haq had put out, talking about Indian-occupied Kashmir and calling for restraint.  And, basically, it says that the Indian Foreign Ministry or Ministry of External Affairs has taken issues with it, that your Office has clarified that the Secretary-General never made those comments.  Have you seen that story, and what can you do to clarify the seeming discrepancy between the Indian Foreign Ministry and your Office? 

Spokesperson:  The Spokesperson’s Office released to the media guidance which was prepared by the UN Secretariat, and that seems to have been taken out of context.  This was not a statement of the Secretary-General.

Question:  What was taken out of context?  This was a formal statement.

Spokesperson:  Iftikhar, let me repeat what I just said:  the Spokesperson’s Office released to the media guidance which was prepared by the UN Secretariat, and it seems to have been taken out of context.  This was not a statement of the Secretary-General.  That’s what I have; I don’t have anything to add.

Question:  But the statement said the Secretary-General calls for restraint, and is there concern about it?

Spokesperson:  As I said, I don’t have anything to add to what I’ve just said.

Question:  I heard the guidance that you have, but the Pakistani press received this clarification, or what have you, from the Spokesperson’s Office, which in fact said, in a statement.  Now, why this change of heart?  I have no idea why this change of heart is coming about.

Spokesperson:  I can tell you what I’ve told you.  What I would say is that, you’re quite right — there were questions — I know that you asked a question on 16 July; there were questions, you asked a question here in the briefing.  As a consequence, the Spokesperson’s Office then released to the media guidance, which was prepared by the UN Secretariat.  That’s all I can say on it.

Question:  Would you characterize it as an authorized statement?

Spokesperson:  I’ve said what I’m going to say on it.  Okay?  It says it was prepared by the UN Secretariat.  Yes?

Question:  On Lebanon, was the Secretary-General informed about the clashes on the Lebanese-Israeli border and how seriously do you categorize the incident?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General is obviously aware of the reports, including from UNIFIL.  He’s aware.  He is concerned, and he, likewise, is calling for maximum restraint.

Question:  And would you please clarify on which side of the border this incident took place?

Spokesperson:  At the moment, the UNIFIL peacekeepers are, as you’ve heard, they’re in the area, and they’re trying to ascertain the circumstances of the incident.  So, I don’t have anything further in the way of details to answer that particular point.  As you know, Mr. Le Roy is in the process, I understand, of briefing the Security Council right now.  There may be more details from that briefing that will become apparent.  I don’t have any further details at the moment.  Yes?

Question:  So you can’t say whether Israel informed UNIFIL in advance of this tree-cutting operation?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have any comment at the moment; what I’ve told you is what we have at the moment.  Yes?

Question:  I wonder if you’ve had a chance to look into the matter I raised last week, namely the closing of the Delegates’ Dining Room on 9 August?

Spokesperson:  I think we have some guidance on that, and I think, if it hasn’t been provided to you, we can very clearly give that to you.  Not a problem.  [He later informed the correspondent that, among other things, the adjustment of services and operating hours is part of the usual contract management process to ensure continuity and quality food service in the UN complex.  The decision to reduce the number of contractor's staff in response to such changes remains with the service provider, even though the UN has always requested that the contractor's staff is retained or deployed to other operations of the contractor to the extent possible.]

Question:  Back to Kashmir.  Is the Secretary-General under pressure from India?  I have been here 35 years, and this was a typical Secretary-General’s statement.  The word, I resent the words “out of context”, because we did not misreport; we sent the story faithfully, correctly, objectively…

Spokesperson:  All I can say is what I’ve already told you.  I don’t have anything further to add.  Yes?

Question:  Concerning the panel of inquiry on the flotilla, I heard your words yesterday describing its work:  you said it will be looking into the existing national inquiries that are under way already, then, if necessary, ask for further clarifications.  Is it fair to call it a panel of revision, instead of panel of inquiry?  Is this what the presidential statement of 1 June asked for?  I remember it asking for credible and transparent investigation.  Would you call this an investigation or revision?

Spokesperson:  I’d call it a panel of inquiry.

Question:  But this was formed in compliance with, I understand…

Spokesperson:  …in the light of the presidential statement; that’s correct.

Question:  And it called for credible, transparent investigation?

Spokesperson:  That’s right, that’s right.

Question:  Prompt and impartial; I just left the first two, assuming they are prompt and impartial, after two months.  But is it a transparent investigation when it’s really revising the other two inquiries and asking, if necessary, for clarification?

Spokesperson:  No, no.  I told you, there are four different aspects to this, and I’m happy to go through them again.  First of all, it is to receive those reports and to review them, that’s the first bit.  And then, to request clarifications and to ask for additional information.  Right, that’s the second part.  That’s not simply a review.  And then examine and identify the facts, circumstances and context of the incident.  And, finally, to consider and recommend ways to avoid this kind of incident in the future.

Question:  In conformity with international standards, why isn’t it allowed to question Israeli soldiers, because we understand from a high Israeli official on our TV station, saying that there’s been agreement with the UN that they cannot interview Israeli soldiers.  Can you confirm that?

Spokesperson:  What I said yesterday was the panel members will meet on 10 August; they need to meet on 10 August, which they will do for the first time.  And they will be looking at that point at what they need to do.  And it will be for them to decide, and Joe asked the same question yesterday, to decide what they need to do, who they need to speak to, and then to request that.

Question:  I understand that, but Israeli officials are already saying that there has been an agreement, through the communications over the weekend, et cetera, that no Israeli soldier will be allowed to be interviewed by this panel.  They are already stating that in an official capacity.  Can you confirm or deny that?

Spokesperson:  I would need to come back to you on that.  I think what I’ve said here is…

Question:  This is true.  Because it [inaudible] international standards…

Spokesperson:  I didn’t say it was true or otherwise; I said I would look into it and come back to you.  Any other questions?

Question:  I’ll do this as quickly as I can.  In Abyei, there’s a discussion between Khartoum and South Sudan; negotiations about the referendum have broken off due to disagreement about who should be allowed to vote, whether nomads that settle in Abyei will be allowed to vote.  So, given the importance to the UN system of this referendum, what does the UN have to say about the suspension of talks and whether nomads should be allowed to vote in Abyei?

Spokesperson:  I’m sure that Mr. Le Roy will be able to address that tomorrow. 

Question:  It seems there are a lot of questions for him…

Spokesperson:  Yes, that’s right.

Question:  Has UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan] not put out anything about this?

Spokesperson:  Let’s see what Mr. Le Roy has to say tomorrow.

Question:  There’s some controversy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that the new Force Commander, Chander Prakash, doesn’t speak French.  This is something that’s been raised there.  I’m wondering — is that your knowledge?  Does he or doesn’t he?

Spokesperson:  Well, it sounds eerily familiar, but let’s see what Mr. Le Roy says, and he’s a French speaker.

Question:  Also in this suit or filing by Robert Appleton with the Dispute Tribunal.  What response, if any, does the Secretariat have to his allegation that he was a victim of discrimination?

Spokesperson:  I think you know what the response is.  It’s the customary response, that this is sub judice and, therefore, we do not comment on such matters.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Bon après midi.  Good afternoon.  Bienvenue les visiteurs.  Welcome to our visitors.

One item today — it’s on the President Treki’s statement on Pakistan.

**Pakistan

The President of the General Assembly, Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, is deeply saddened by the heavy loss of life and widespread devastation resulting from the catastrophic monsoon rains affecting millions of people in Pakistan. 

On behalf of all Member States and on his own behalf, the President of the General Assembly reiterates his sympathy for, and solidarity with, the people and Government of Pakistan on this natural disaster. 

The President of the General Assembly calls on Member States and the international community to support efforts of the Government and the people of Pakistan.  He is encouraged by the support committed so far by the United Nations under the leadership of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as by many Member States. 

The President of the General Assembly salutes the resilience of the people of Pakistan, whose courage should be matched by the continued commitment of the entire international community.

That’s what I have for you today.  Questions?  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  The President, what are the President’s plans between now and the opening of the new General Assembly session?

Spokesperson:  The President will be soon returning from holidays.  We hope that he will be here in the next few days.  There is a possibility for him to travel to the Republic of Congo in Brazzaville at the invitation of the Government of Congo on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of independence celebrations in Brazzaville.  This remains to be confirmed.  We will do so in the next few days.  We may also announce other plans, but one thing we will try to do is to have the President come here and speak to you before the end of the session on the occasion of a press conference. 

Any other questions? If there are no further question, I wish all of you a good and pleasant afternoon.  Thank you very much. 

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.