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

25 October 2010

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

25 October 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, and welcome to the briefing.

**Noon Guest

Our guest today, joining by video telephone conference, is Choi Young-jin, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire.

I am just checking that you can hear me, Mr. Choi.

Mr. Choi:  Yes.

Spokesperson:  Very good.  Okay.  So, Mr. Choi, I think you probably have a few opening remarks before we take questions.

[Press conference by Special Representative Choi issued separately.]

**Security Council

Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed the Security Council this morning on the work of the two UN peacekeeping missions in Sudan.

He told Council members that, three months before the referenda, Sudan is entering a crucial period, and he noted the progress made in the preparations for the referenda.  At the same time, he expressed his grave concern about the human rights situation of South Sudanese living in the North.  Le Roy said that it is essential that the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan are guaranteed conditions that permit them to exercise their vote in a free and fair manner.

Le Roy added that, as the attention of the international community increasingly turns to the impending referenda, we must not lose focus of the acute challenges remaining in Darfur.  During the reporting period, he said, incidents of banditry, carjacking, ambushes and abductions of UN staff and humanitarian workers continued in Darfur.

** Afghanistan

In a statement we issued over the weekend, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the suicide attack that took place on Saturday against the UN compound in the western city of Herat, Afghanistan, where staff of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and other UN agencies are housed.  No fatalities among the UN staff were reported, although regrettably some security guards were wounded.  A number of assailants were killed in the attack, and the United Nations is conducting a full investigation.

The United Nations will continue to maintain its presence and programmes in Herat for the benefit of the population in need and in support of the Afghan authorities.

The members of the Security Council also issued a press statement, saying that they will be waiting to hear the results of the investigation that has already been launched.

The members of the Security Council reiterated their serious concern at the threats posed by the Taliban, Al-Qaida, and other extremist groups, to the local population, national security forces, and international military and international assistance efforts in Afghanistan.

** Haiti

In Haiti, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that, as of yesterday, 254 deaths had been reported due to cholera, while 3,015 cases have been confirmed.  The Office adds that the number of new cases reported is starting to slow down.  However, preparations to respond to a greater number of cases across the country are under way.

The United Nations is airlifting chlorine bags to all water pipeline systems in the affected areas, and providing overland transport and storage in support of aid efforts.  Measures are also being put in place to respond to a potential increase in numbers and to other parts of the country, including Port-au-Prince.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that new cholera treatment facilities are being set up and that the UN is promoting hygiene through awareness campaigns.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Roger Meece, has condemned the attack this weekend on the UN Mission’s operating base in Rwindi, in North Kivu.  The base was attacked on Saturday evening by some 50 armed men.  And a joint investigation by the Mission (MONUSCO) and the Congolese authorities is now under way to establish the identity and motive of the assailants.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

We have a number of press conferences here tomorrow.

At 11:15 a.m., Manfred Novak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture, will hold a press conference.

Then my guest at the noon briefing will be Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

And then at 1:15 p.m., there will be a press conference by Anand Grover, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

And finally, at 3 p.m., Martin Scheinin, the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism, will hold a press conference.

Okay, I am happy to take other questions.  Joe?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  You didn’t mention casualties on the rebel side in the attack on the peacekeepers in Congo.

Spokesperson:  Eight armed men were killed and two were wounded.

Question:  Do we know where they are from?

Spokesperson:  No, that’s why we’re trying to find out, to identify the assailants and to find out why they carried out these attacks.

Question:  Any civilian decoys ahead of them trying to gain entry?

Spokesperson:  What I can tell you is that armed men gathered in front of the base and declared their intention to attack it.  And that, after several warnings by the peacekeepers, the armed men continued to advance on the base, and they fired on peacekeepers and at that point they tried to enter the site by force.  And in reaction, the peacekeepers opened fired, and the assailants then fled.  And since the attack, I can tell you, the Congolese army has brought into custody more individuals. 

Question:  [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Amongst those brought into custody by the Congolese army?  I have to find out.  But what I have told you from our own figures so far, eight armed men were killed and two were wounded.

Question:  No injuries on the UN side at all?

Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge, no.  Okay, further questions?  Yes?

Question:  Yes, Martin.  Please, is there any reaction from the United Nations about the release of documents by Wikileaks? There are 400,000 documents on the Iraq war.  Do you think here that some follow-up action should be taken after the release of those documents?

Spokesperson:  No, we don’t have any reaction to that.  We’ve obviously read the same reports that you have, but we don’t have any reaction at the moment, no.

Question:  I have another question.  We’ve heard from members of the Security Council that some IDPs, internally displaced people, in Darfur who met with the Security Council delegation were arrested by the authorities after the delegation left.  Do you have any confirmation from that, as the UN, that these people were arrested?

Spokesperson:  I think Farhan, last week in my absence, answered this question a number of times, so I don’t think I need to answer it again.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Just now in the Council, in the open session, Mr. [Alain] Le Roy said we’re not in a position… because the Government of Sudan has denied it, at the stakeout, they said they haven’t arrested anyone that met with the Council.  So in the open session, Mr. Le Roy said we’re not in a position to provide names of the alleged victims out of concern to protect our sources from retaliation.  Does this sentence mean that the UN is confirming that people are arrested but just won’t provide the names?  What does the UN say to Sudan denying that it took place at all?

Spokesperson:  Well, I am not about to parse the words of the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.  You heard what he said, you just read it out.  He said that what he said.

Question:  Will Le Roy talk to us?

Spokesperson:  If he does, we’ll let you know.

Question:  And is Mr… I thought Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari is actually in New York.  I have heard that from the Nigerian Mission, so I am wondering if there is a briefing in the Council on UNAMID, and he is not there, where is he?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out exactly what the position is.  But, as I said, you’ve heard Mr. Le Roy brief just the same as everybody else. Yes, please?

Question:  Will you announce a tripartite meeting on Cyprus?  Is it that the SG extended an invitation to [Dimitris] Christofias and [Derviş Eroğlu] to come here and then couldn’t get together?

Spokesperson:  Again, I think this was addressed last week, and I don’t have anything to add on that.  If I do, I understand your interest and others’ interest in this topic, and you know there has been some movement, including at least a couple of meetings last week on the island.  So, if there is something further to add, then we’ll let you know.

Question:  We have heard the Turkish Cypriot leader say to the Turkish press that he is ready, he accepted the invitation of the SG and is ready to come to the, to meet Christofias and with the SG too.  Christofias yesterday said he wants to come meet with the SG and then [Eroğlu], and on your side, there is no invitation extended to the two parties of the island?

Spokesperson:  Let me come back to you on that.  As I said, I think you will have heard from Farhan last week on this, but let me double check to see if there is an update.  Yes, other questions?  Yes, Joe?

Question:  During [inaudible] but, if they hadn’t, does it mean that these revelations in the Wikileaks reports could not be acted upon by the Committee on the Prevention of Torture?  You just had a member of the Committee here.

Spokesperson:  Well, there a couple of things here.  One is that, unless I am mistaken, Wikileaks does not refer to something in the very recent past, but is referring to incidents and documents from further back.  So I think we shouldn’t put those two together.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  Well, I’d need to… I do not know the answer to that, so I need to find out.  But someone who may be able to help you is giving a press conference tomorrow, as I mentioned — Manfred Novak, who is the Special Rapporteur on torture.  That’s at 11:15 a.m. tomorrow.  Okay?  Yes?

Question:  I want to ask about the Secretary-General’s impending trip to Asia.  There is a report to the Third Committee by the Special Rapporteur on the right to health about, among other things, what he sees as the violated practices in anti-drug programmes in many of the countries that Ban Ki-moon is going to be visiting — Cambodia, Viet Nam, Thailand — and he calls very strongly for the UN to move against people who are incarcerated.  This is all according to his report.  I just wonder: of the many issues obviously on the Secretary-General’s agenda as he visits these countries, is he aware of that?  And there is a separate issue in Cambodia, where people has said that they are going to try and rally in front of Ban Ki-moon about evictions, forced evictions, in Cambodia.  Are these… Can you sort of… Can we get a run-down of what issues he is planning to raise, and I just wonder whether these two are among them?

Spokesperson:  Sure.  And again, I seem to recall that Farhan gave you a bit of a run-down on the trip last week, sitting here.  As the trip progresses, we will be giving details.  The Secretary-General and his delegation are en route at the moment to Thailand where, as you know, the visit starts.  They then move to Cambodia and on to Viet Nam for this UN-ASEAN [Association of South-East Asian Nations] meeting and then to China, where, as you know, the Secretary-General will be visiting Shanghai, Nanjing and Beijing.  On the question of health, the very specific point that you raised, we can find out and probably tell you as the visit progresses.  The same goes for the second part that you mentioned.

Question:  And just one other, this is something that has been sort of brewing, but it seems to have reached a head.  If I am not wrong, for almost 20 years now, every year there has been a report to the General Assembly of the Staff Union, called, “Views of the staff of the United Nations Secretariat”, produced by the Staff Union here; and the Secretary-General’s Office is supposed to transmit it to the General Assembly.  Apparently, there has been a decision, whether it is by Ms. [Catherine] Pollard, Ms. [Angela] Kane or the Secretariat generally, to this year refuse to transmit it and to seek in its place to transmit a much more positive report of the SMCC, Staff Management Coordinating Committee.  So the Staff Union says it’s illegal and wrong and also violates… seems to be controlling what is basically criticism of the Secretariat’s performance.  What’s the rationale for not putting it out?

Spokesperson:  Well, given your sources, Matthew, then I am sure you’ve also got a copy of the response to this from the Deputy Secretary-General, which is fairly explicit, fairly detailed and pushes back on all the points made by the Staff Union, and I don’t have anything to add to that.

Question:  But still, why in the past… it’s been done in the past… I guess I am just wondering, it seems like…

Spokesperson:  Matthew, I think you probably heard the last bit I said.  I don’t have anything further to add to what the Deputy Secretary-General said in the response, which I am sure that you have also seen.

Correspondent:  They said that the Secretariat is now seeking…

Spokesperson:  I am not sure that you quite heard what I said.  Try a different question.

Question:  Okay.  It’s a different question on this, that the Secretariat now has an intention to ask Member States in General Assembly to change the provision that would require the submission of these reports.  Is that something that the Secretariat currently intends to do?

Spokesperson:  Again, the Deputy Secretary-General has spelled out quite clearly what the provisions are and what the Secretariat was prepared to do in accordance with the provisions that are there.  Okay?

Question:  Have the “red shirts” made any petition to see the Secretary-General when he is in Thailand?  Have they communicated anything to his Office?

Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge, not to my knowledge.  But I think, as we’ve also said, this is… it’s a rather short visit and the Secretary-General will be seeing the Prime Minister and speaking to the press after that.  And he’ll also visit the UN headquarters there, as you know, for the Asia-Pacific region.

Question:  It is in local reports; they’re saying that they will file a complaint on him.

Spokesperson:  Well, as I say, I am not aware of that.  It doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened.  I am not aware of it.

Question:  Would he see them if they wanted to?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out. I don’t have an answer to that right now.  But we can find out.

Question:  The Greek Cypriots used the secretary of [Alexander] Downer and gained access to Downer’s computer.  And then…

Spokesperson:  I didn’t quite understand the first part.  Could you say it again?

Question:  The secretary to Downer was seduced by a Greek Cypriot guy; according to [inaudible] a very handsome guy seduced the secretary to get to the computer of Mr. Downer and then received classified information and leaked it to the Greek press and more complicated [inaudible].  Have you been told about this, are you aware?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t have any comment on that.  I haven’t heard about that.  I would need to find out.

Question:  It’s been said also in the story that the UN has asked for the FBI help to find out the reason of the leakage and so, one, if you have a reaction or if you have any…?

Spokesperson:  Well, given what I have just said, I said that this is the first I have heard of it.  I am not saying other people have not.  As it is the first that I have heard of it, it is unlikely that I would have a reaction to it.  So I would need to find out more about it.  Okay, thank you very much.  Good afternoon.

* *** *

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