|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.
We just issued a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for Secretary-General on Israeli settlement activity, and the statement says:
The Secretary-General recalls the Quartet statement of last week which reflected the united call of the international community urging Israel to extend the settlement restraint policy. He is disappointed that no such decision has yet been taken and concerned at provocative actions taking place on the ground. He reiterates that settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law, and urges Israel to fulfil its Road Map obligation to freeze settlement activity. The Secretary-General supports ongoing efforts to find a way to continue peace talks in an environment conducive to progress. This is the only route to a viable Palestinian State living in peace with a secure Israel.
The Secretary-General is convening a high-level meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar this afternoon at 5 p.m. in Conference Room 6 in the North Lawn Building. The meeting is intended to review developments in Myanmar as the country heads to its first elections in 20 years.
Afterwards, at about 6 p.m., the Secretary-General intends to speak to reporters at the first-floor stakeout position in the North Lawn Building.
Over the past five years, he said, the United Nations has expanded its counter-terrorism activities, increased inter-agency coordination and enhanced partnerships with a wide range of international and regional organizations.
The Secretary-General noted the gravity of the situation in the Sahel-Maghreb region and said he is committed to working with the region’s leaders on strengthening State capacity for counter-terrorism. In Central Asia, the United Nations is already working on capacity-building in the areas of law enforcement, criminal justice and international cooperation. We have his remarks in my Office.
** Haiti Storm
You may recall that a strong rainstorm hit the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, on Friday afternoon. It lasted for half an hour and killed and injured several people. It also caused damage in the camps set up for those left homeless by the earthquake earlier this year.
Since Friday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, and the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) have been helping with damage assessments and assisting people who were trapped or in need of medical aid.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that, so far, more than 160 camps have been identified as having humanitarian needs. Most of these centre on shelter, with around 11,000 families requiring shelter assistance; up to now, one third of the 11,000 have been provided with assistance, in the form of tarpaulins and tents.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says no major medical or food needs have been reported, and there are enough existing supplies in-country, but contingency stocks will need to be replenished.
The Secretary-General is saddened by the loss of life and damage caused by the storm and extends his deepest condolences to the families of those who have died. We have more on the Secretary-General’s reaction from a statement we issued over the weekend, as well as more on the humanitarian response available from my Office.
United Nations, African Union and Sudanese Government officials will hold a meeting of the Tripartite Mechanism on the UN–AU mission in Darfur (UNAMID) this afternoon, here at UN Headquarters. The UN-AU Joint Special Representative for Darfur, Ibrahim Gambari, will lead the UN delegation.
The meeting is to last from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. in Conference Room 7 in the North Lawn Building. And it will largely focus on the Darfur peace process and the security of Darfur civilians, in particular as it affects internally displaced persons. And we have more in a press release from the mission.
** Sudan Referenda
The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has initiated a number of preparatory steps to provide maximum support to the political process, in order to assist the Government of Sudan to hold referenda in January 2011.
One such initiative planned by the UN Mission in the Sudan’s military component is to conduct rehearsals to streamline necessary procedures. The rehearsals will include procedures to provide limited logistical support to the referenda, to protect civilians and to deploy military support for emergencies.
Operation Swift Shield is the first of these exercises and will be conducted in the areas of Kadugli, Abyei, Diffra and Agok, from 27 September to 30 September.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, told a meeting of the International Contact Group on Somalia that the Transitional Federal Government is facing two pressing challenges: political and security. At the meeting in Madrid, Mahiga said the Transitional Federal Government should be assisted to move the Constitution-making process forward.
While the political process should map out the way, security remains the key issue. He said the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) continues to play a crucial role in Mogadishu, where it safeguards the Transitional Institutions and vital installations.
That’s what I have. Questions, please? Yes?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Since the Middle East process has been shaken up, what can be done? What can the Secretary-General do to restart the process?
Spokesperson: Well, as you heard, the Secretary-General has made his position quite clear today. He is supporting the efforts to find a way to continue the peace talks. Particularly, that needs to be in an environment that is conducive to progress. And that is why he has said that he is disappointed that no decision has yet been taken to extend the settlement restraint policy. And, he referred very clearly to the Quartet statement, which noted that the commendable Israeli settlement moratorium that was instituted last November had had a positive impact, and the Quartet had urged for that to be continued. So, therefore, I think the Secretary-General will be continuing to support efforts and playing an active part in supporting those efforts to find a way to keep things moving ahead; to ensure that these peace talks can continue.
Question: Will he talk to the Israeli Prime Minister?
Spokesperson: Well, as you all know from the Secretary-General’s schedule, today’s schedule, he has a meeting with the Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Avigdor Lieberman. And I think you can assume that they will not be talking just about the weather. Yes?
Question: I just wanted to know, in the situation as far as India-occupied Kashmir is concerned, has the UN Observer Mission in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) given any observation about what is happening in the region?
Spokesperson: As you know, that Mission is a mission of extremely long standing and with a very, very specific mandate, which is to monitor the truce line, and that’s what it does. I don’t have anything further than that. Okay?
Question: Sure, Martin. I have questions on Sudan, Somalia and Sri Lanka. On Sudan, I had wanted to know, first just factually. There was a report by one of the groups in West Darfur, SLM Abdul Kassim Al Haj, saying that they were attacked by the Government and that they’ve informed UNAMID of this and asked for confirmation or some support. Are you aware of that? And did this attack take place?
Spokesperson: Confirmation of what?
Question: Of two things. That this rebel group has asked for assistance from UNAMID, and two, whether UNAMID is in fact looking into it and can confirm the attack of this volatile region of Sudan.
Spokesperson: UNAMID is aware of these reports. And I know that my colleagues on the ground there are looking into this, but I don’t have anything further at the moment.
Question: And I am wondering on the tripartite meeting, is it possible for Mr. Gambari to maybe do a stakeout, or Mr. [Mohamed] Yonis?
Spokesperson: Well, we can certainly ask.
Question: And I also wanted to [inaudible] today by the Government’s Mobilization Secretary, Haj Majid, saying of the referendum, we may not recognize the results and stating that if the South votes for cessation, that citizenship of Southerners in the north would be cancelled. These seem like pretty major statements by a Sudanese minister. Has UNMIS or the UN, do they have any response to these statements so quickly after the Secretary-General’s meeting?
Spokesperson: Well, I think that what one needs to refer back to is the communiqué from the high-level meeting on Sudan, which was a document agreed by all those who attended, and that included the parties to the comprehensive peace agreement. I think I’ll leave it there.
Question: There was a change between… I asked you I think on Friday what the role of DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] and DPA [Department of Political Affairs] was in this document. But there was, between a near-final draft and a final draft, the word “human rights” was dropped in the final paragraph. Is that something the UN is comfortable with, given its role in putting together that communiqué?
Spokesperson: As I told you at the time, those who help with drafting are working with the countries, the Member States or other representatives taking part in meetings of this kind. And as you well know, a document that comes out of the end of a meeting like this is agreed by consensus. Everybody has to metaphorically sign up to it. And the statement, the communiqué, says what it says.
Question: And — because it is sort of related on this idea how documents are put out, I notice that after the Secretary-General’s meeting with the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, there was a readout which purported to summarize both what the Secretary-General said and what the President, Rajapaksa, said. But they didn’t mention, as you know, explicitly the Secretary-General’s panel to advise him on accountability in Sri Lanka. Soon thereafter, the President’s Office in Sri Lanka put out a statement saying that Ban Ki-moon had assured, given his assurance, that his panel would not have the mandate to investigate or the power to investigate anything in Sri Lanka. So I was trying to figure out what was said at the meeting, because the two summaries are inconsistent, and I would assume that Sri Lanka agreed to the one that was put out by the Secretary-General’s Office since it included a summary of the President’s remarks. Sorry for the long question.
Spokesperson: Let me find out. Typically, as I have told you before, the readouts – and these are all the readouts since the beginning of the general debate, or rather since the beginning of last week, so since the 19th — and typically the way that it works is that these are readouts that are of the Secretary-General’s part of the conversation, if you like.
Question: [inaudible] paragraph on what the President says. That’s why it also came out…
Spokesperson: Because, because sometimes there will be occasions where it veers away from the normal practice. And I think you can imagine that sometimes where topics are particularly sensitive, that might be necessary to do.
Question: I guess my question was just that if it was in fact the Sri Lanka one was agreed with the Government, what does the Secretary-General have to say with the Government putting out its own summary that says, “Ban provided assurances that the panel, that the panel is in no way empowered to investigate charges against Sri Lanka.” They put that out officially, you know.
Spokesperson: Well, any country, any Member State, any interlocutor is perfectly entitled to provide its own readout on a meeting. That is entirely up to them.
Question: But is it true that he said that? That’s my question.
Spokesperson: Well, I will need to ask further about that. But it’s not really for me to comment on a readout that is provided by a Member State. It is entirely up to them if they wish to do that.
Question: But I know that one time the Permanent Representative of Sudan provided his own summary of a meeting with the Secretary-General and was almost immediately criticized for inaccurate summary.
Spokesperson: As I said, Matthew, you know, we can go round and round in circles. Let’s see what I can find out. But it’s not necessary to pass judgement or provide comment on what a Member State is saying about a given meeting. That’s not…
Question: If he calls into question that the complete [inaudible]
Spokesperson: Matthew, let’s move on to the next question.
Question: Okay, and this is on Somalia. One, a factual question. There is a report, there were reports of a military helicopter engaging with Al-Shabaab over the city of Merca. And there seems to be, I wanted to know if Mr. [Augustine] Mahiga’s office or AMISOM, are they aware of this and if they have any idea what power it might be that is using a military helicopter to engage with insurgents in Somalia?
Spokesperson: I have seen the reports. Don’t have anything further at the moment.
Question: There was a meeting convened by DPA on Somalia on Thursday. It’s been confirmed to me that Eritrea was invited, was in the room and, at the last second, was asked to leave the room by the Secretariat. And I am wondering why that happened. One, a participant observed Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar speaking with Permanent Representative, [Araya] Desta, and then Desta leaving. But, whether or not that was the communication, basically DPA invited Eritrea and then unceremoniously “dis-invited” them minutes before the meeting began. And I am just wondering what the UN’s explanation for this seeming undiplomatic act might have been?
Spokesperson: Let me find out. Okay? Thank you very much. Thank you.
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