|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.
The Secretary-General convened a high-level meeting of the Group of Friends of Myanmar yesterday afternoon, and told reporters afterwards that participants discussed ways to intensify our common efforts to help the Government and people of Myanmar achieve a successful transition towards a credible civilian and democratic Government.
He said that members of the Group of Friends clearly reiterated the need for the election process to be more inclusive, participatory and transparent. Members called for steps to be taken for the release of political detainees, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. This is essential, the Secretary-General said, for the elections to be seen as credible and to contribute to Myanmar's stability and development.
The Secretary-General added that the Group encourages the Government of Myanmar to adopt a more constructive and forward-looking approach in its response to the international community's call for engagement. His press remarks are available online.
The Security Council heard a briefing this morning from Michael von der Schulenburg, the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative for Sierra Leone. Schulenburg told Council members that Sierra Leone has been able to leave behind years of civil war and dictatorship, and it has made considerable progress in recent years.
He discussed preparations for the 2012 elections, and also noted the apprehension with which Sierra Leoneans view developments in neighbouring Guinea. The Security Council then continued its discussion of Sierra Leone in closed consultations. Council members are also receiving an update on Côte d’Ivoire by the Special Representative for the country, Choi Young-jin. We expect Mr. Choi will go to the stakeout to speak to reporters once consultations have finished.
A meeting of the International Contact Group on Somalia ended earlier today in Madrid. In a communiqué, the members of the Contact Group noted with satisfaction that disputes within the Transitional Federal Institutions were ended in a consensual matter. They strongly urged the Somali leadership to remain united and focus on addressing the critical tasks ahead. They called for further consultations on the draft Constitution and stressed that the transitional federal authorities must focus on fighting corruption, promoting accountability and transparency, and delivering basic services. They listed seven priorities for the Somali Government, including reaching out to key actors who remain outside the framework of the DjiboutiPeace Process and devising a road map to address outstanding issues facing the transition, which is due to end in August 2011.
Significant progress has been made in increasing access to HIV/AIDS services in several low- and middle-income countries, according to a new report released today by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
Last year, the report says, 5.25 million people had access to HIV treatment in low- and middle-income countries, accounting for 36 per cent of those in need. This represents an increase of more than 1.2 million people from December 2008, the largest increase in any single year.
Remarkable progress in Eastern and Southern Africa, the region most severely affected by HIV, offers hope. In that region, HIV treatment coverage has increased from 32 per cent to 41 per cent in one year. And half of the pregnant women were able to access HIV testing and counselling in 2009. We have more details available in a press release.
Turning to the situation on the ground in Port-au-Prince following last Friday’s rainstorm, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), says assessment teams have now visited 172 sites there, and shelter remains overwhelmingly the principal need.
Close to 15,000 families in need of shelter assistance have now been identified. This means that demand for shelter now exceeds supplies available in Haiti by around 2,500. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and its partners are identifying supplies that can most readily fill this gap. And we have more on this available from OCHA and in my office.
**Guest at Noon Briefing Tomorrow
Tomorrow, my guests will be Robert Orr, the Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning, and Nicholas Haysom, Director in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General. They will be here to review the General Assembly period.
And I’m happy to take questions.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Martin. Can you tell, in the readout in the meeting between the Foreign Minister of Syria, [Walid] al-Moualem, and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this morning, was one which concerned the situations in Lebanon and Iraq, in the readout. Do you have more specifics on this particular question?
Spokesperson: No, we don’t have any further details beyond what was provided in the readout, but as you pointed out, both of those topics were raised, but no further details on that. Yes?
Question: The [inaudible] Citizen, this is based from Iran, showed that the Iranian Foreign Minister was making a visit with the Secretary-General today. Do you have any details about that? Is that confirmed?
Spokesperson: I don’t think that’s the case. As you know, the Secretary-General did meet President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad last week. If this should change and there are scheduled meetings, then we will let you know. To my knowledge, there is no meeting scheduled for today. All right, yes?
Question: Tomorrow’s briefing, Mr. Orr and his colleague will be briefing on the General Assembly’s general work or a specific aspect of the GA work?
Spokesperson: As I said, the General Assembly period. I think that’s shorthand for the various events and developments in the past 10 days or so. This includes MDGs [Millennium Development Goals], it includes the high-level meetings there have been on Sudan, on Somalia, on supporting the work of the Conference on Disarmament, the Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health; so a wide range of topics, and clearly both of them are extremely well-placed to give you their take on how the preceding 10 days or so have gone. That’s the aim. Yes?
Question: The Secretary-General has been asked to take a position on the fact that in Chile, the demonstrators of the Mapuche have been imprisoned and on a hunger strike since 78 days.
Spokesperson: Who’s been asking the Secretary-General to take a position?
Correspondent: Oh, the demonstrators. Do you have some comment?
Spokesperson: No, not at the moment, but let me find out. Yes?
Question: Can I follow up on that and then other stuff on Sudan. Did the Secretary-General receive a letter from one of the hunger-striking Mapuche in Chile?
Spokesperson: Like I said, I don’t have anything at the moment. Let me find out.
[The Spokesperson later confirmed that the Secretary-General received a letter from a representative of the Alianza Territorial Mapuche Organization on 24 September.]
Question: I wanted to ask you on Sudan, Inner City Press has obtained a document that’s a draft document from a letter from Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari to Ali Karti, the Foreign Minister, and attached additional terms, which seemed to indicate that UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] is preparing or is negotiating the terms to turn over five individual from Kalma camp to the Sudanese Government, in exchange for a commitment by [President] Omer al-Bashir that he wouldn’t impose the death penalty, or done something about the families paying blood money. I guess what I want to know is a couple things. Initially there were six individuals that were dealt protection of the UN; so what happened to the sixth one? Are the people under detention of the UN? It’s almost like they’d be extradited from the UN to Sudan. What’s their current situation and what’s UNAMID’s comment on accepting the assurance to not kill these people from a President who’s been indicted for war crimes and genocide by the ICC [International Criminal Court]?
Spokesperson: Well, these discussions, Matthew, as we’ve said before, are continuing at the highest level and we respect the confidentiality of these discussions.
Correspondent: I spoke to a Council member this morning.
Spokesperson: So let’s move on to the next question, okay Matthew, because…
Question: I guess there’s a procedural question here though; the letter refers to…
Spokesperson: The procedural point is that these discussions are continuing and they’re confidential.
Question: My question is not about Sudan, it’s about the Sudanese Government, it’s about the communications between UNAMID and Mr. Gambari and the Security Council, which created the Commission. The Security Council member that I spoke to said that the documents referred to in Gambari’s letter has never been shared with the Security Council, so I want to know…
Spokesperson: As I say, this is something that is the subject of discussions that are still continuing, so that’s why I think they should remain confidential. That’s how diplomacy works. Next question.
Question: All right, okay. There’s, maybe you know about this incident or I’ll cite to it, there is a UN cargo shipment meant for the mission in the Sinai was stopped in the Toronto airport — it had landmines, as described by Haaretz, landmines in it. To some it was surprising that the UN would be transporting what’s described as landmines. Does the UN in any of its, either direct peacekeeping or UN-branded missions that they may or may not control, use landmines, or is the Haaretz story incorrect?
Spokesperson: Well, it sounds rather unlikely to me, but let me check with my colleagues.
Question: I also wanted to know, the President of Kosovo has announced his resignation. Given UNMIK’s [United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] central role under [resolution] 1244, is there any response for the UN system for this resignation by the President?
Spokesperson: Well, what I can tell you is that we’ve taken note of the resignation of Mr. [Fatmir] Sejdiu, with whom the UN Mission in Kosovo enjoyed constructive cooperation and will continue to support political stability in Kosovo, in coordination with other international stakeholders. That’s what I can tell you.
Correspondent: Well, that’s great. I’m sorry, this is like fast and furious.
Spokesperson: Lots of fast, but less furious.
Question: The Dominican soldiers have offered to serve in, and have actually started training with, MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] in Haiti. Is that something… are you aware of that?
Spokesperson: Let me find out from DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] and MINUSTAH. I’m not aware of that.
[The Spokesperson later said that there are no current plans to deploy Dominican troops in MINUSTAH.]
Question: And just finally, I wanted to know, yesterday this question of the dis-invitation of Eritrea of the Somalia meeting by DPA [Department for Political Affairs]. It’s pretty much been confirmed at the highest levels that the dis-invitation was made; I just want to know if it’s possible to get a statement from the UN, why a country that had been invited to this high-level mini-summit was dis-invited at the last second?
Spokesperson: You certainly put the question yesterday and I said I was trying to find out. I don’t have an answer for you yet. Okay, any other questions?
Question: What’s the Secretary-General planning to tell the North Korean envoy when they meet this afternoon?
Spokesperson: As you know, as you will have seen from the schedules from the last 10 days or so, there are a huge number of bilateral meetings with Member States, in excess of 100 Member States. The DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] is a Member State of the United Nations and this is one of those bilateral meetings. I’m not going to prejudge what the Secretary-General might be discussing with him, but we will be providing a readout afterwards.
Question: Do you have some report of Gonzalez, that’s the Adviser of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), having accused the Mexican Government not to protect children because they are more and more used to smuggle drugs and guide illegal immigrants to the US?
Spokesperson: Not aware of that, I’ll ask my colleagues at the UNODC in Vienna to see if they can help us. I’m not aware of that.
Question: I just want to have your comment about two issues. First, the Government arrest of [Mustapha] Salma, the Frente Polisario’s chief of police?
Spokesperson: Yes, I think I’ve addressed this before. We don’t really have anything to say on that.
Question: There is nothing to say?
Spokesperson: I can check further but the last time I checked we didn’t have anything to say on that topic.
Question: Okay and the other questions, please. Concerning the halt of the confidence-building mission, some families were prevented from visiting the relatives last week in Tindouf. Is there any comment on that?
Spokesperson: I seem to remember that we did have some information on that topic. I would be happy to provide more information on this. UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees], as I recall, they put out a press release already on 18 September, so that was the Saturday before, in which UNHCR said the refugee agency expressed disappointment that the 20 passengers on this flight for a family visit were prevented from disembarking, and according to the press release from the UNHCR, they were seeking to clarify with the Frente Polisario the reasons for the refusal of the disembarkation. UNHCR said it was hoping this confidence-building measure, or the programme of confidence-building measures, would be able to resume at the earliest opportunity. I’ll see whether UNHCR would have had any further feedback in this matter, but that’s what I have at this moment. Yes?
Question: As you know, the Arab League is having a meeting on 4 October, on the peace process in the Middle East. Is the United Nations invited to that meeting, and if yes, at what level?
Spokesperson: I’d have to check on that. I think this is a meeting of the League of Arab States Foreign Ministers. What the Secretary-General said yesterday was that he had made clear to Senator [George] Mitchell that he’s prepared to do whatever he can to continue to engage with leaders, Arab leaders and, indeed, with Israeli leaders. His hope is that there can be some way out of this difficulty that we’re facing so that the peace process can continue without interruptions. But as for who would be at that meeting on 4 October, let’s see if we can find out. All right, thank you very much.
Question: Just because it’s an anniversary question, it has to do with Guinea and the 150 people killed and the mass rapes that took place. Several human rights groups were noting a year now, a year and a day after those incidents began, that no one has actually been arrested. If there was a UN-appointed panel that looked into it that even named individuals — at least two of them remain serving with the Government. So I’m wondering if the UN has any… what’s the next step? Is the UN satisfied with what came out of that panel or what are the next steps to have some action taken on those horrific events?
Spokesperson: Let me find out. As you well know, this is something that the United Nations has paid close attention to in the past year, so let me find out where things stand.
Thank you very much.
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