|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. Welcome to the briefing.
**Guest at the Noon Briefing
We have with us Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and also, as you can see, Assistant Secretary-General Atul Khare. And they are here to give you a regular quarterly update on peacekeeping. So, please; the floor is yours, and I think you can take it from there.
[Press conference on peacekeeping issued separately.]
**Secretary-General in Tokyo
Just a couple of things to add:
The Secretary-General spoke to students this morning, one day before he is to visit Nagasaki, and said that he hoped the younger generation of Japanese will become leaders for disarmament. He told students at Waseda University in Tokyo that they should tell the stories of the survivors of nuclear bombs, the hibakusha, since their testimony is the most graphic argument against the nuclear threat. We have his remarks in my Office.
The Secretary-General had his first official meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, and they spoke to reporters afterwards. That transcript is also available.
He also met with the Minister of Defence [Toshimi Kitazawa] and with a number of other officials, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the House of Councillors and other members of Parliament. In addition, he met with the Chairman of the Japan Business Federation (or Keidanren).
The Secretary-General also met with UN staff at a town hall at UN University and had a working luncheon with the University’s rector.
**Secretary-General on Pakistan
We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on floods in Pakistan:
In response to the tragic flood disaster in Pakistan, the Secretary-General has asked his Special Envoy for Assistance to Pakistan, Jean-Maurice Ripert, to travel to the country as soon as possible. Mr. Ripert will arrive in Pakistan tomorrow. He will join the United Nations country team already engaged in the relief operations and jointly assess the situation with the UN team and Pakistani agencies on the ground.
The Special Envoy, along with the UN Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Coordinator, will help mobilize support from the international community to assist the Government of Pakistan in addressing the urgent, immediate needs of the population in the affected areas and in planning for the early recovery and reconstruction period. The Special Envoy will report to the Secretary-General on the situation and the ongoing relief efforts.
** Pakistan Floods
And just an update from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Pakistan: OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] is saying that a rapid assessment of the situation in Pakistan has found that close to a million people in four districts have been temporarily displaced by the flooding, with unconfirmed estimates of two to three million displaced in other parts of the country.
That’s on top of the more than 1,000 people killed by the floods and many more trapped or still missing; with nearly 100,000 homes destroyed and 50,000 damaged in those four districts, in the country’s north-west.
Relief work by UN agencies is picking up pace, but challenges remain. OCHA says there are still people who have not received any assistance, as lack of road access and communications networks continues to hamper relief efforts.
**Secretary-General’s Statement on United Republic of Tanzania
We have another statement attributable to the Spokesperson to the Secretary-General on the United Republic of Tanzania.
The Secretary-General congratulates the people of the United Republic of Tanzania, particularly of Zanzibar, for the peaceful holding of their recent referendum in Zanzibar. He also welcomes the inter-party agreement between the two main political parties, Chama Cha Mapinduzi and Civic United Front, that led to the referendum, aimed at paving the way for long-term reconciliation.
The Secretary-General is encouraged by the determination of the people of Zanzibar to build a peaceful and united future, and reiterates the readiness of the United Nations to assist them.
I would also note that Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, briefed the Security Council in an open meeting this morning on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI). He told the Council that Iraq has made considerable progress since 2003, but that we cannot underestimate the challenges that it still faces.
And, I understand that Mr. Melkert has spoken at the stakeout and that and that the Council President also read a statement to the press on Iraq.
Okay, so I can take a couple of questions. Yes?
**Questions and Answers
Question: On the floods, you said that Mr. Ripert is going, but the only way to provide the transportation in the flood-affected areas is helicopters. Does the UN have enough helicopters to do the relief operations?
Spokesperson: Let me find out. I think I need to find out more from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. I know that countries, including the United States, have also been providing helicopters.
Question: I was asking about the UN operation.
Spokesperson: Yes, I understand, and I will see what I can find out. Obviously, you’re absolutely right, this is a crucial area of concern because so many roads have been cut and so many bridges have been destroyed. [He later informed the reporter that the amount of helicopters has not been a constraint in the provision of relief aid.]
Question: And, on Kashmir, the Indian authorities have given shoot-at-sight orders to security forces for anyone who demonstrates in favour of freedom. Does the Secretary-General, as a custodian of human rights, approve this tactic?
Spokesperson: I don’t have anything to add beyond what I said yesterday.
Question: Anything to say about human rights?
Spokesperson: I don’t have anything to add beyond what I said yesterday. Yes?
Question: I wanted — this is also about Kashmir — I’m trying to get a sense of exactly what was said in this guidance that was issued, and there’s been some dispute over whether it was a statement, or — you called it guidance yesterday. And I just wanted to confirm that the wording of this guidance was correct, that it said, “In relation to recent developments in Indian-administered Kashmir, the Secretary-General is concerned over the prevailing security situation there over the past month,” and another sentence: “He calls on all concerned to exercise utmost restraint and address problems peacefully.”
Just a simple yes or no question: is this accurate, the guidance I’m quoting?
Spokesperson: Lou, I don’t have anything to add beyond what I said yesterday.
Question: Just a simple yes or no question.
Spokesperson: Just a simple yes or no question and my answer is the one I’ve given, alright.
Question: No, no, that’s not acceptable. Come on, it’s a yes or no question, is it accurate or was it not. And I’m sorry to push this, but…
Spokesperson: You can push it as many times as you’d like, Lou; my answer will still be the same. And, whether you consider it acceptable or not, that has to be my answer. Alright.
Question: Some think that the way that it was answered yesterday — it’s hard for them to take; what weight should statements by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General be given if they’re later characterized as mere guidance and the Secretary-General didn’t mean them. For your own purposes, how do we — is this a one-off, or does this somehow change; you get a statement today about Tanzania — is that a statement of the Secretary-General, or is it mere guidance, and from who — who gave the guidance on Kashmir?
Spokesperson: You know very well what it said [on Tanzania]: it said “a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General”, and that clearly is a statement. But I don’t have anything beyond what I’ve already said on this topic. Okay?
Question: Some housekeeping. As you’re well aware, the press is very upset about the general layout of the Security Council, the lack of cameras, the stakeouts are difficult to attend, and so forth. There’s not even a camera so you can see who’s coming and going. Yesterday, it hit a new low, in that, when Ambassador [Vitaly] Churkin came out with a statement, the squawk was announced after he had already appeared in front of the microphone. Is there any chance that the Spokesperson’s Office could get back into any of the consultations and avoid that situation that we had yesterday? It’s bound to repeat itself.
Spokesperson: Well, as I understand it, the Security Council put out a note dated 26 July, and paragraph 21 of that note says: “Unless otherwise decided, the Security Council Affairs Division of the Department of Political Affairs will be responsible for keeping the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General informed of matters which may require its action.”
Therefore, it’s incumbent on the Security Council Affairs Division to keep us informed in a timely manner, and I will take that up with them.
Question: They obviously did not, yesterday.
Spokesperson: I would agree with you, and I will take it up with them. Yes?
Question: Thank you, Martin. I asked some questions before about the closing of the Delegates’ Dining Room and I received an answer yesterday. Thank you for that. However, the answer does not indicate that the Delegates’ Dining Room will be closing after October indefinitely. It might be very worthwhile to inform the staff, as well as the public, that this Delegates’ Dining Room is going to close indefinitely, for the sake of transparency.
Spokesperson: Let’s find out. [The reporter was later informed that the Delegates’ Dining Room is to be closed until 20 September.]
Question: I have a question on Rwanda.
Spokesperson: Just one question, please, Matthew, because I think you have an abundance of information from the briefings.
Question: I wanted to follow up, and then a question on Rwanda. The follow-up has to do with this, because I didn’t know you were going to say this thing about Security Council Affairs: the head of Security Council Affairs is leaving his position on 16 August — Horst Heitmann. I wanted to know how, given the increased importance of this unit to keep us all informed, what’s the explanation for having made this switch without a replacement in place, and what steps were taken, who’s going to be in charge of this unit that you’ve just named on 16 August? Is there a temporary vacancy announcement, is there a person waiting in the wings, is Ms. [ Lorraine] Sievers going to become officer-in-charge of this unit?
Spokesperson: Let me find out.
Question: On Rwanda — reporters and others have said that essentially 30 media organizations or more have been de-licensed in the run-up to the election that’s coming up, and so I’m just wondering if, particularly since the Secretary-General named President [Paul] Kagame and candidate Kagame as his MDG [Millennium Development Goals] advisory advocacy group — what does the UN say about the crackdowns on the media and on opposition figures in the run-up to the election, and is the Secretary-General satisfied with the investigation of the beheaded opposition leader that he, himself, spoke of in Madrid with Mr. Kagame?
Spokesperson: We’re aware of the reports that you refer to on media organizations on Rwanda. And, when I have something further to say on it, I’ll certainly let you know. We’re looking into that. And, on the other aspects, if I have anything further to say, I’ll also come back to you.
Question: And there’ll be a statement of the Spokesperson?
Spokesperson: I’ll come back to you in whatever form is appropriate at the time. Thank you.
* *** *