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

21 September 2010

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

21 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.

** Middle East Quartet

This afternoon, the Secretary-General will host a meeting of the Quartet dealing with the Middle East — which brings together the United Nations, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States.  As the Secretary-General told you last week, this Quartet meeting is intended to support the current direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

The principals will meet at 3 p.m., and they will then hold a press conference from 4:00 until 4:30 p.m. in Conference Room 3.  The participants of that press conference will be the Secretary-General, United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, United States Envoy George Mitchell and Quartet Representative Tony Blair.

[The Spokesperson later announced that the press conference was cancelled.]

After the press conference, the Quartet will then meet with the Arab Peace Initiative Follow-up Committee.

**Secretary-General on Least Developed Countries

The world’s least developed countries — known as the LDCs — have made some progress in addressing some of the most pressing Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — but these countries remain the group facing the most severe challenges in achieving the MDGs, with their vulnerable economies and MDG gains under unsustainable pressure.  That was one of the messages the Secretary-General had this morning when he addressed a side event of the MDG Summit, focusing on the Goals in least developed countries.

In his remarks, he said there’s a strong case for a global package for those countries and called on the international community to continue to stand with them at this time, despite the economic difficulties that are putting pressure on aid budgets and other kinds of support. 

We have copies of his remarks to this event — as well as to another event this morning, on child nutrition — available from my Office.

**Pakistan

At a meeting this morning, the Secretary-General discussed the situation in Pakistan after the floods with the Foreign Minister of Pakistan.  The exchange touched upon ways and means to coordinate relief efforts in order to get assistance to those most in need as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that hundreds of thousands of people are still being displaced by the floods in southern Pakistan’s Sindh province.  The flood waters are rising, and every day, we are receiving information of 20 to 30,000 newly displaced people.

Out of an estimated 20 million people affected by floods, spanning one fifth of the country, more than 7.3 million are in Sindh.  Through the work of the United Nations and its partners in the province, 1.3 million people have so far received food, while emergency shelter has reached 500,000 people.  Clean drinking water is now available to a similar number of people, and more than 1 million have received medical attention.

And we have more details in a press release.

** Afghanistan

Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, has commended the Independent Election Commission for its achievement in holding the election last Saturday.  He said that the Commission demonstrated significant improvements in the organizing of the elections.

De Mistura said that Afghanistan’s electoral institutions are now at a critical stage of fulfilling their duties under the law to finalize the election.  They must be able to operate in a fully independent manner, free of interference.  He said that the independence of these institutions is crucial to the credibility of the completion of the electoral process.

** Guinea

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, met this morning in Ouagadougou with Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Mediator for Guinea Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré as part of a joint mission to Guinea.  Our Office for West Africa (UNOWA) says that they agreed to coordinate regional and UN efforts to support the transition as Guinea prepares for the second round of presidential elections.

Yesterday, Djinnit and the regional delegation met with General Sékouba Konaté, the Interim President of Guinea, in Conakry.  They encouraged the Guinean leader to call upon all concerned stakeholders in Guinea to focus on creating the conditions for holding the presidential election peacefully and as soon as possible.

**Sudan — Doha Talks

Djibril Bassolé, the African Union-United Nations Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur, and Foreign Minister Al-Thani of Qatar announced yesterday that the Government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement have agreed to resume their negotiations on 29 September in Doha.

Meanwhile, the Mediators have received a preliminary draft peace document from the Drafting Committee, which was recently formed.  The Mediators invited all armed movements to join ongoing negotiations to reach a comprehensive and just solution and meet the legitimate aspirations and demands of the people of Darfur.

**United Nations-SADC Framework for Cooperation

Today, the Secretariats of the United Nations and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are signing a framework agreement intended to enhance cooperation in the areas of conflict prevention, mediation and elections.  The Framework for Cooperation is being signed about now by B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, and the Executive-Secretary of the Southern African Development Community, Tomáz Augusto Salomão.  We will have a press release available after the signing.

So, questions, please.  Tala?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Martin can you just [inaudible].  The Quartet is meeting from 3:00 to 4:00 with the Secretary-General.

Spokesperson:  Correct.

Question:  And then from 4:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. there is a press conference.  And what is following the press conference?

Spokesperson:  This is the Quartet meeting with the Arab Peace Initiative Follow-up Committee; this is League of Arab States’ leaders.  Yes.

Question:  Martin, I wonder whether the Secretary-General has any comments on the rising death toll in Indian-occupied Kashmir where protesters demanding freedom are clashing daily with the Indian security forces?

Spokesperson: Well, I have mentioned to you before that the Secretary-General is closely following the events.  The Secretary-General regrets the latest loss of life.  He calls for an immediate end to violence and urges calm and restraint by all concerned.  Other questions?  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  As part of the implementation of the first goal of the MDGs, [inaudible] halving extreme poverty by 2015, is the Secretary-General in favour of the proposal to have the debt of the poor countries eliminated?

Spokesperson:  This is something that is part of a bigger picture and I know that this will be something that is likely to be the source of considerable discussion, including coming up to the outcome document at the end of this summit meeting where, as you know, we have many dozens of Heads of State and Government.  So I would keep an eye on that.  Yes.

Question:  A follow up, the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan will be here.  Does the Secretary-General plan to mediate on this issue, on the issue of [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  I think I have said what I can tell you on this subject already, okay.  Thanks.  Yes, Matthew.

Question:  Sure, Martin.  One on Sudan and then one on UN procurement.  First, can you confirm that some staff members of UNAMID in South Darfur were attacked and injured near Muhajeriya.  Do you have anything on it?

Spokesperson:  I have heard some reports. I don’t have details.  I would need to get some details on that.  I don’t have that. 

Question:  And I guess there is a few, yesterday I had asked you this question…

Spokesperson:  Media reports is what I am referring to.

Question:  Right.  Yesterday I had asked you this question of whether the Commissioner of the Referendum, the Secretary-General of the Referendum Commission for South Sudan, was a UN staff member previously serving with United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) in Western Sahara.  Were you able to get the answer on that?

Spokesperson:  I think my colleagues in Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) will be in touch with you.  But as I understand it, the person concerned was a UN staff member, but is no longer.

Question:  Right.  Okay.  And also, I mean, maybe it will be in connection with that.  I have heard that, in fact, the UN, while saying publicly that they will be opening 80 monitoring stations throughout South Sudan for the referendums scheduled for January, in fact expects to open no more than 55 or so.  That seems the number, the difference between internal and external presentation seems so wide that I wonder if you can confirm that.

Spokesperson:  I am not aware of any change in the intention to open the number of monitoring stations that has already been publicly stated.  Let me find out if there’s been a change.  I am not aware of that.

Question:  And just one last one.  This is a Secretary-General question rather than DPKO, I believe.  Can you, I guess, confirm that the Secretary-General intends to name this panel of eminent persons, three-person panel to monitor or at least he is attempting to name this before Friday’s meeting?  And can you give any sense of what the back and forth is or whether it will contain a Head of State?  There is a lot of interest in this panel and not a lot of information.

Spokesperson:  Well, I can fully understand that there is a lot of interest in the forming of a monitoring panel, which is something that, as you know, was mentioned in a Security Council press statement last week, if I am not mistaken, that the Security Council supports the request that there has been for such a monitoring panel.  This is something that is in the works.  We will have something to announce when it is finalized.  I think we are getting quite close to that.  The intention is to have something in place and the people in place in good time for this to be useful for all concerned.

Question:  Even to participate in Friday’s meeting?

Spokesperson:  I beg your pardon?

Question:  Even to participate in Friday’s meeting [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  This I don’t know, this I don’t know.

Question:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  More important at the moment is simply to make sure that the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are in the right place.  This is something that is being worked on and I hope that we will have a little bit more to say about this in the next couple of days.

Question:  Okay.  That would be great.  And just one on procurement.  A businessman, Richard Bistrong, pled guilty late last week to bribing UN officials to sell body armour.  And he said in his plea that he paid $200,000 to UN officials to get this 5-6 million dollar contract.  But I haven’t heard the UN side of it.  I mean, does the UN [know] who the individuals that Mr. Bistrong has now pled guilty to bribing are and what has happened to them?

Spokesperson:  Well, this is something that is taking place in court; therefore, it’s not something that I am going to comment on.

Question:  But I mean, I guess if it’s now resolved in court.  He’s pled guilty and is just about to be sentenced.

Spokesperson:  Regardless.

Question:  Right.

Spokesperson:  This is something that is, there is a judicial process.  It’s not appropriate for me to comment on it at this point.

Question:  But can you see why people looking at sort of UN and possible procurement corruption would wonder whether there is, I mean, do you, is, would it be fair…

Spokesperson:  You can come at it from any angle you like, you’re going to get the same answer, Matthew, okay. 

Question:  So, these guys are still here?

Spokesperson:  As I have said to you, Matthew, this is something that it’s not appropriate to comment on while it is still in court, at whatever stage it may be…

Question:  Right.

Spokesperson:  …whatever the, wherever we may be until it’s finished.  This is not something that it’s appropriate to comment on.

Question:  Just one last question, is it finished when he is sentenced or when he finishes serving his sentence?  When is it finished?

Spokesperson:  Matthew, I think you know what — given that you’re a lawyer yourself, I think you understand how judicial process works.  And it’s not appropriate for me to comment at this stage.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  Again on poverty.  Yesterday, President [Nicolas] Sarkozy of France made a very specific proposal; namely, to tax financial transactions.  Does the Secretary-General, is he in favour of that proposal?

Spokesperson:  This is something that the Secretary-General is aware of; it is something that a number of countries have looked and are interested in pursuing.  And he will also want to see how those discussions amongst Member States coalesce, and then I think that we would probably have more to say at that point.  But in general terms, clearly in a time of financial and economic austerity, innovative financing is important.  Exactly what shape it takes and how it is carried out is a different matter.  That is obviously something for Member States, countries, to agree amongst themselves.  But the general principle of innovative financing is clearly something that is very important to ensure that we can secure funding to help with reaching the eight Goals by 2015.  Further questions?  Yes, John.

Question:  [inaudible] meeting yesterday at the hotel across the street and various other activities going on.  Do you know what the expectations are?  What the Secretary-General’s expectations might be for the Quartet meeting later today?

Spokesperson:  Well, don’t take it that I am confirming the meeting between President Perez and Abbas.  This is something that should come from somewhere else.

Question:  We confirmed it yesterday.

Spokesperson:  I beg your pardon?

Question:  I mean, I was there, I mean, not at the meeting, but was, there was…

Spokesperson:  Right.  Okay, well if you were in the meeting then you have incredibly good sources.

Question:  [laughter]  Outside the meeting.

Spokesperson:  John, what I would say is that the Quartet meeting at this level — principals, in other words — with Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov, Catherine Ashton for the European Union along with the Secretary-General and Senator Mitchell and Tony Blair, this is a fairly high-powered, high-level meeting to provide support to the direct talks that are now underway since 2 September.  Let’s not prejudge what is going to come out of there.  You have seen the reports the same as I have.  Let’s wait and see what comes out at the end, at the press conference at 4:00 p.m.  Okay.  Yes, Masood.

Question:  On the Millennium Development Goals, one of the reasons that has been given time and again and again and again is that the Member States have not come up with that 0.7 official development assistance (ODA) that has been [inaudible].  Now, in this meeting, does the Secretary-General and other ministers intend to renew that not only should the ODA be 0.7 achieved and should be paid or it should be revised and raised?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you’ve heard what the Secretary-General had to say yesterday about what needs to be done.  That promises were made and promises need to be kept. I think he was fairly clear on that.  And indeed on praising the international community for what’s been accomplished.  There are success stories out there.  But those success stories and the accomplishments that have been made are fragile.  And in addition, a lot more still needs to be done, of course.  So, I think that the Secretary-General has been fairly clear on the need to keep the promises that were made in the year 2000 and, indeed, subsequently since then.  Okay, yes.

Question:  Sure.  Somalia and then about a speech and then an event held right here earlier today.  On Somalia, the Prime Minister has resigned after saying publicly — that happened today — he said he couldn’t work with the President.  Since it is a UN-supported Transitional Federal Government, what is the UN, does it have any comment?  What does it think of this split and resignation by the Prime Minister?  Is it a good thing?  A bad thing?

Spokesperson:  We’re aware of it and I am expecting to have something to say a little bit later but I don’t have anything to say right now.  But we’re certainly aware of it and we should have something a little later.

Question:  Because some people would say he was being pressured to quit.  I just wonder if the UN [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Well, as I said, I would expect to have something to give you a little bit later, Matthew.  I don’t have anything right now. 

Question:  The other thing is [inaudible], and it’s just sort of a strange, earlier this morning when the President of Iran spoke there was some, the UN interpreters at the end of the speech said that they were, said they were only reading from a translated text; not actually interpreting what was being said.  So it made me wonder, what is; the UN interpreters at the MDG event and at the upcoming General Assembly — what are they, is this normal?  And if so, why did they make the announcement or do they interpret what is being said from the podium or are they just reading a text given to them by the Government that is speaking?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, Farsi is not one of the official languages of the United Nations, and in other cases where non-official languages have been used, clearly a text is going to be provided to help the interpreters and they will be working off of a text that has been provided, a translation that has been provided into one of the official languages by the country concerned.

Question:  Why was so much made of it in this one case?  I mean, is that true of all speakers [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Well, I can’t speak for the interpreters.  I don’t know the full background to it.  All I can tell you is that this was a text provided by the Iranian Mission and therefore, if you wish to pursue it with them, you may do so.

Question:  Right, I guess, yeah.  I am just wondering, on the UN side of it, why they would highlight this one.  I mean, [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  As I say, I am…

Question: Maybe we can get something.  Maybe we can’t.  But…

Spokesperson:  As I said, unless you’re listening to every single interpretation of every single speech, it would be difficult to say whether this was highlighted or not.  If you have been, and that is indeed the case, that’s something that we can look into.

Question:  And just, and this may be seem [inaudible].  Earlier today there was a press conference in here by the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity at which, as well as announcing some kind of partnership with Japan Airlines, they put on the podium this model airplane, and it seemed very much for some viewing it like an advertisement for Japan Airlines.  And I am just sort of wondering, I don’t know, maybe “rules” is too strong a word.  Is there any kind of a guidance on the use of sort of commercial symbols on the…

Spokesperson:  On the use of plastic airplane?

Question:  Yeah, I guess.  On the airplane I have no problem.  It’s more the logo of the company and the sort of promotion that seemingly, if you turn down the sound it would look very much like a commercial for Japan Airlines.  So I just wonder if you have any comment on it, and also whether there is any follow-up to the Trump Group event that was held here last week?

Spokesperson:  Well, on that, I mean, I would suggest that you simply have a word with the Kazakh Permanent Mission; it was their event.  And on this one, I would ask you to speak to the folks who organized this particular press conference.  All right, thank you very much.  Yes, yes, yes.

Question:  [inaudible] from CNN. 

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  Is Hillary Clinton going to be at this press conference later today?

Spokesperson:  That’s my understanding.

Question:  We’ve heard conflicting reports.

Spokesperson:  Well, that’s my understanding.  Unless there has been a change since I have been sitting here.  That’s my understanding.

Question:  Thank you very much.

Spokesperson: All right.  Okay.

* *** *

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