Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

16 September 2010

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

16 September 2010
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
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.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Guinea

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Guinea.

The Secretary-General takes note of the decision by the Guinean authorities to postpone, due to technical reasons, the second round of the country’s presidential elections that were scheduled to take place on 19 September 2010.  He calls upon the country’s authorities to quickly address the outstanding technical and logistical challenges in order to create the conditions necessary for the holding of transparent and credible elections as soon as possible.  He warns those who may attempt to disrupt an orderly and peaceful transition that they would be held accountable by Guineans and by the international community as a whole.

The Secretary-General further calls upon all Guineans to exercise utmost restraint during the electoral campaign and to refrain from all acts of violence or incitement.  The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, Said Djinnit, is actively engaged with national, regional and other international actors to help Guinea create a conducive atmosphere for the completion of the electoral process in a timely and peaceful manner.

**Flotilla Panel

As you will have seen, the Secretary-General received the initial progress report he requested from the Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident.  And as we told you, that’s how we told you in a statement issued yesterday afternoon.  And as expected, this first report is largely procedural in nature.

The Secretary-General was heartened that the Panel unanimously reported it had the means available to it to respond to the high international concern that has been expressed concerning the flotilla incident.  The Secretary-General looks forward to the Panel’s substantive treatment of the flotilla incident after it has received and been able to review reports from both Israel and Turkey on their national investigations.

The Secretary-General is pleased that the Panel is now fully under way and focused on fulfilling its very important responsibilities.  He is encouraged that the Panel reported it had conducted its proceedings in a positive and collegial atmosphere.  As you will have seen, the full statement is available online.

**Security Council

Augustine Mahiga, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, briefed the Security Council this morning, in his first time in that capacity.  He expressed concern about the security situation in Somalia and its potential impact on the entire region.

With only 11 months to go before the end of the transition period, he said, the Transitional Federal Government and the international community should show heightened political resolve to preserve and expand the fragile peace ushered in by the Djibouti Agreement.  He appealed to Member States to move towards practical actions to support Somalia, including in financial and material support for the African Union Mission, AMISOM.  His briefing notes are in our Office.

And also, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang, has issued a statement following a three-day visit to the region, in which she called for an end to the culture of impunity in Somalia.

**Secretary-General’s Appointment

The Secretary-General has appointed Ms. Rima Khalaf, a national of Jordan, as Executive Secretary and Under-Secretary-General for the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).  She succeeds Mr. Bader Al-Dafa of Qatar.

Ms. Khalaf has held many senior policymaking positions in the Jordanian Government and has served as the head of the Regional Bureau of Arab States with the UN Development Programme.  We have more information on Ms. Khalaf in my Office.

** Afghanistan

Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, visited the southern city of Kandahar today, to meet with local leaders and electoral officials and express UN support for Saturday’s parliamentary polls.  He said that he visited Kandahar in order to listen to the concerns of those involved in supporting and conducting the elections, as well as to those of tribal elders who are leaders in their communities.  We have a press release with more details.

** Cambodia

Yesterday, the Co-Investigating Judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia signed an order to indict four former Khmer Rouge officials and send them for trial.  The four accused have been charged with genocide against the Cham and the Vietnamese, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, among other offences.  The four accused are being held in detention until their appearance before the Trial Chamber.  We have more details in a press release from the Extraordinary Chambers.

** Chad

The World Food Programme (WFP) warned today that rates of malnutrition among children remain at critical levels in Chad.  The World Food Programme Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, said “the situation in Chad is still alarming” even as harvest time approaches in the Eastern Sahel.  She said that “after a long and crippling lean season, children are weak and need to continue receiving food and nutritional support”.

Earlier this year, after erratic rainfall across the Eastern Sahel, much of the 2009 harvest was destroyed, the landscape parched and watering holes for cattle dried up.  Malnutrition rates climbed at an alarming rate.

In response, the World Food Programme mounted emergency food assistance operations in Niger and Chad with the aim of meeting the nutritional needs of the young children and keeping families fed through the lean season when food is in short supply and prices rise.

**Press Conference Today

Today at 2:45 p.m., here in this room, the World Health Organization (WHO) will hold a press conference to launch the WHO report: “Mental Health and Development — Targeting people with mental health conditions as a vulnerable group”.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

And then tomorrow, our guest at the noon briefing will be Patricia O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, who will be here to brief you on the Annual Treaty Event, which starts next week.  She will be joined by Nandhini Krishna, the Liaison Officer to the UN for the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

[The Spokesperson later added that Ms. O’Brien will not be able to brief on Friday, and instead, another senior official from the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs will.]

And then at 3:30 p.m., Hervé Morin, Minister of Defence of France, will be here to brief you following his meeting with the Secretary-General.

I’m happy to take questions.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes, Martin, on the flotilla issue.  I’m told that the Turks have submitted their [inaudible].  Can you update us on the progress on the association from the Israeli side?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, this was an initial progress report that was submitted by the four Panel members to the Secretary-General and with regard to submissions so far, the Panel has received an interim report from Turkey, on the progress with respect to its national investigation, and an interim report from Israel is still forthcoming.  And once both are in hand, the Panel will begin the substantive review, which of course will cover the final reports from the parties when they are received.

Question:  How long will it take on these conclusions?

Spokesperson:  That’s obviously for the Israeli’s, it’s their interim report in the same way that it’s their national investigation.  Equally, Turkey has been conducting its own national investigation.  Those are the two tracks — each of those are domestic and therefore it’s for them to be able to say when they will be concluded.

Question:  Is it open-ended?

Spokesperson:  Well, again, excuse me, again, that’s really for the Israeli authorities to say.  What I can tell you is that the Panel has provided its interim report.  As you know, this is a progress report and it will be in a position to start looking at a substantive review of the information from the two parties once those interim reports from the two parties are completed.  But it’s, each of those domestic components is obviously in the hands of the domestic authorities.  Yes?

Question:  I was going to ask you about the deadline.  If the Israelis had to actually submit their interim report, for example, in a month or two months or if that makes any…?

Spokesperson:  This is very much, as I say, they are domestic components and these are very much therefore in the hands of those national authorities.  And then it will flow from there.  But as you would have already seen from what the statement said yesterday and what I’ve said today, the Panel put together by the Secretary-General is now under way and it’s fully focused on the important work that it has to do.  Yes, Masood?

Correspondent:  I think my colleague is going to ask a flotilla question; I have a separate question.

Spokesperson:  Still on the flotilla?  Please.

Question:  Martin, is there a particular reason why it’s not mentioned in this statement that Turkey has submitted the interim report while Israel has not finished it yet?  Because when you read this, it’s as if the both sides have not submitted their reports yet.

Spokesperson:  Well, as I’ve just answered that question, and I’ve said in answer to a question that the Panel received an interim report from Turkey on the progress with regard to its own national investigation, and that the interim report from Israel is forthcoming, so, in the works.  That’s what I can tell you.

Question:  But it’s not mentioned in this statement.

Spokesperson:  No, but I’ve just told you.  Yeah, Masood, yeah?

Question:  Martin, this is another follow-up.  The thing is in the occupied Kashmir, people continue to suffer and die and are under curfew, 24 hours in some areas, and the Indian Prime Minister’s appeal for peace and calm is not working.  Has the Secretary-General taken note of this situation yet, or not?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I’ve said repeatedly, he’s aware.

Question:  You have said.  That’s the reason I’m saying…

Spokesperson:  We will continue this until I have something different to say, and I sincerely hope that I will be in a position to have something different to say, but until then, what I can tell you is that he is aware and is monitoring what’s been happening and if I have something more concrete to say then I will do so.

Question:  How long is he going to monitor it?

Spokesperson:  That’s not something I can really get into.

Question:  On the military side, the state has been locked down, the people cannot come out.  Is the UN involved in providing some humanitarian need to the people who can’t even go to buy medicines and even the ambulances are not running?

Spokesperson:  As I say, the Secretary-General and others in the UN system that deal with these matters are aware and monitoring what’s happening.  If I have anything further then I’ll certainly tell you.  Okay?  Yes, please?  First of all, Cecelia, then you, please?

Question:  Talking about Cambodia, Martin, the interim head of Government has been part of the Khmer Rouge and it’s very well known — how come he has not been indicted?

Spokesperson:  Well, this is a matter for the Court and the prosecutors.  This is not directly a matter for the UN itself, this is a matter for a judicial system.

Question:  It’s part of the Court, right?

Spokesperson:  It’s a matter, it’s a judicial process, and there for prosecutors and others to be involved in that matter.  It’s not something for us to comment on.  Please?

Question:  Yeah, on Guinea, can you talk a little more specifically about what Said Djinnit is doing, where he is, who he is meeting with?  And also, since everyone seems to agree that the reason for the delay is mainly technical issues, like ballots can’t be distributed, there aren’t enough machines, is the UN planning to get involved on the technical, logistical side?

Spokesperson:  As I said, Mr. Djinnit is actively involved.  He’s in the region, as you might expect, and he’s engaged with the Guinean authorities and with regional authorities, meaning ECOWAS and other international actors so that this can go ahead as soon as possible, as the Secretary-General has said would be desirable.  I know that Mr.Djinnit is, as I say, in the region and he’s very actively involved in this.  If I can get some more details on precisely what the UN is doing to help with other players, notably ECOWAS, to overcome any of these technical and logistical challenges, then I’m sure we would provide that information.  I don’t have anything extra right now.  Yes?

Question:  [Inaudible] said yesterday that an upgraded appeal would be launched on Friday.  What time is that?

Spokesperson:  Pass, and I will find out and let you know.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  I want to ask about Nepal and Sudan.  On Nepal, even despite the extension by the Security Council of the mandate for four months, there’s been, I guess, given the timing, I guess it’s today, there’s been renewed criticism by the Prime Minister of Nepal of the Secretary-General’s report and Ms. Landgren’s statements in the Council referring, saying that the UN should wait to talk to the post-merger Government, they’ve made a variety of critiques, and they said this may damage Nepal’s historically good relations the UN.  It also, the same article from Nepal says that the perm rep here has made his complaints, and references that letter from four former ministers.  I guess I’m wondering, I understand that now that the Security-Council has, in fact, voted and is sort of off their plate for a while, what is the Secretariat’s response?  The criticism is not of the Council, it’s of the Secretary-General’s report, Ms. Landgren and the approach that the Secretariat has taken.  What’s the response of the Secretariat?

Spokesperson:  The report speaks for itself and the fact that the Security Council has extended the mandate also speaks for itself.  If I have anything further, then I will certainly share that with you.  I don’t have anything further…

Question:  [Inaudible] the four former ministers.  In fact, has it now been received and will it be responded to in some fashion?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything further.  If I do, then I’ll be happy to share it with you.  I don’t have anything further on that.

Question:  On Sudan, I wanted to ask interrelated things.  The first one, this is a pretty softball one.  In the Council presidential statement, or statement made yesterday about Sudan; it referred to the Secretary’s plan of sort of having a monitoring group for the referendum.  Can you say a little bit more; where does it stand in terms of choosing the people, who’s gonna, you know, when’s it going to be done by, given by soon the election’s coming up?  What can you say more about that?

Spokesperson:  This is very much in the works.  This is a monitoring panel, as you mentioned.  That panel was in response to a joint request, not just from the Government of Sudan, but from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), and clearly this is something that is being worked on actively right now, and as soon as we can provide you with more details we will.  But it is actively being worked on right now.  Clearly this, the gravity and the urgency of this is patently apparent to all those concerned and hence, this meeting on the margins of the General Assembly, which is being convened by the Secretary-General and being attended by major world players.  So this is obviously something that is being given very close attention.

Question:  And just, earlier in the week I’d asked you about this idea that, pretty, I mean, confirmed proposal by Mr. Bassolé to bring Khaled Ibrahim of JEM back into Darfur.  The Government has now said that they’ve met with Mr. Bassolé, either he didn’t make the request or they would deny the request in any event.  The same article seemed to say that the Secretary-General thought that would be a good idea.  What is… Is the UN proposing to bring this Darfur leader back into the country?  Does the Secretariat think that would jumpstart or get back on track the Doha process, or is it true that Bassolé wants to do that?

Spokesperson:  Well, a lot of interconnected questions there.  I don’t have anything for you right now.  I know you asked about this before and we have been looking into it.  I don’t have anything for you.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Yup.  Yes, please?

Question:  Martin, the reports in the Middle East, especially in Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, on the talks in Cyprus.  There was this report in Greek press yesterday claiming that the Secretary-General will meet both the leaders in October, in New York.  And if they cannot reach a common solution by then, he will then declare the Cyprus problem as unsolvable.  Is that something you can talk about?

Spokesperson:  You heard the Secretary-General just the other day speaking about the Cyprus question.  The Secretary-General and his Special Adviser remain committed to helping the two communities, the leaders of the two communities and their colleagues to find a solution to this, obviously longstanding question.  But, so that’s the first point.  The second is that, as the Secretary-General also mentioned that there’s going to be a frankly bewildering array of bilateral meetings, multilateral meetings, during the next couple of weeks, and we’ll have to see whether those meeting also include the people you’ve mentioned.  The Secretary-General and Mr. Downer remain firmly committed to helping the communities in their search for a solution that is equitable for them and is something that is worked out in a spirit of compromise.  They remain committed to help them.  Yes?

Question:  What can you tell us about e-enabler, the [inaudible] portal for the Millennium Development Goals being planned by the Global Alliance for ICT and Development?  They had some press, they had some event at the UN on September 1 and 2 where they were announcing this portal that they’re doing and there was only one press, which was the UN Journal allowed there, or something.  Somehow they really seemed to be avoiding having people understand what they’re doing and having any press involvement in it, and I’m wondering why that is.  They seem to have a set of plans and there’s some breakfast, I think, on the 21st.  Can you tell us what’s happening?  Is the Secretary-General somehow part of, supporting all of this, and I wonder why the secrecy involved in it?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out.  I don’t have any immediate answer to your several interconnected questions there.  Breakfast is always a good idea, secrecy is not.  I think we need to look at that and I’ll come back with an answer.

Question:  My second question is where in the Secretariat is the point for the listing S/NC for the Security Council, where it receives communications from non-governmental entities and private people that it, in fact, is supposed to be making a list of and sending them to the Security-Council members?  This is something I’ve been trying to find out for several months and somehow it’s a great mystery also.

Spokesperson:  Well, it sounds like we need Agatha Christie here to solve the mystery.  I don’t have an answer for you, but let’s see if we can find out.  Okay?  Matthew, do you have any answer maybe, I don’t know?

Question:  No, I just wanted to follow up on this idea of secrecy being a bad thing.

Spokesperson:  I thought you might.

Question:  Yeah, but, I think you’d said on the Sri Lanka panel, the panel of experts was going to meet with the Secretary-General this week.  I’m looking at his schedule for today and I don’t see it.  Although I do see he was somehow listed to be here at 11 a.m.  Did I miss that?  Well, anyway.  It’s on the schedule, so I don’t know, maybe…

Spokesperson:  He was listed to be here at 11 o’clock and he was.  You weren’t.

Question:  No, exactly.  I guess he was in and out.

Spokesperson:  I was surprised you weren’t, but he was — the Secretary-General — and I think your colleagues will attest he was here.

Question:  I’ll watch it, I’ll watch it on video.  What about this meeting with the panel, is it taking place tomorrow?

Spokesperson:  It’s taking place today, this afternoon.

Question:  Then why isn’t it on the schedule?

Spokesperson:  Not everything is on the schedule and we will be able to tell you a little bit more after that meeting.

Question:  My question is, what’s the purpose of the schedule if a high-level political meeting of some import is not listed?

Spokesperson:  There are any number of reasons some things would be on the schedule and some things are not.  Internal meetings typically are not.

Question:  This is not really, it’s a panel.  When he met with the flotilla panel it was on the schedule.

Spokesperson:  Whose panel is it Matthew?  It’s his panel, it’s an internal meeting.

Question:  What time is the meeting?

Spokesperson:  It’s this afternoon and we’ll provide you with the information after the meeting.

Question:  And something totally unrelated.  In Kosovo, NATO has acknowledged that its own peacekeepers are under investigation for a sort of a smuggling and tax evasion scandal.  There have been raids on the peacekeepers units and I just wonder, I understand that there is NATO peacekeepers and it’s not the UNMIK.  But given that UNMIK, I guess under [resolution] 1244 (1999) has a pretty central role in Kosovo, what’s been UNMIK’s knowledge of this developing scandal, can the UN say unequivocally that its own peacekeepers and its civilian staff in Kosovo are not involved, and what does it have any comment on this scandal in this important, highly-charged location?

Spokesperson:  I’d have to ask UNMIK, which you probably could too.  And clearly, if it’s NATO, as you prefaced your question, then it’s something for NATO to comment on.  If UNMIK has something further to say, then I’m sure they would help to illuminate matters for me and for others.

Okay, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.

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