|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. And welcome to guests in the briefing room from Germany.
**Secretary-General in China
On the first day of his visit to Beijing, the Secretary-General met with Chinese President Hu Jintao. They discussed a wide range of topics, including climate change, the Millennium Development Goals, the Korean peninsula and Africa. The Secretary-General noted that China could play a greater role in peacekeeping and in the search for political solutions to African crises, including in Somalia and Sudan.
Yesterday, the Secretary-General was in Shanghai, where he spoke at the Shanghai Expo, which he said had helped Shanghai secure its reputation as one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities. He noted that the Expo had helped highlight innovations in construction and new uses of natural resources; discussions on how to cut energy and water use; an appreciation of the importance of mass transit systems; and a call for special attention to be given to the unique problems of the world’s slums. The Secretary-General said: “In all this, I hope that China will be an urban pioneer.” He also spoke to students at Nanjing University yesterday.
I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Kyrgyzstan.
The Secretary-General takes note of the official announcement today of the results of the 10 October parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan. He congratulates the people of Kyrgyzstan on the elections, which were assessed by observers as positive, transparent, and well organized. He encourages the timely formation of an inclusive Government that will ensure peace, stability, and prosperity.
** Côte d’Ivoire
In a statement issued earlier today, the Secretary-General welcomed the holding of the presidential election in Côte d'Ivoire yesterday and commended the Ivorian people for exercising their right to vote in a peaceful manner. He called the election an important milestone in the efforts to restore lasting peace in the country.
The Secretary-General acknowledges the efforts of the Ivorian Independent Electoral Commission and the national and international partners that contributed to the organization and conduct of this election. He calls on all parties and candidates to play their part in maintaining a calm environment. He urges them to accept the proclaimed and certified results, filing any complaints through the legally-established mechanisms. We have a full statement in my Office and also available online.
We also have a statement by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the adoption of the historic new protocol on access and benefit-sharing of genetic resources. And we also have a statement on Somalia that was issued over the weekend, along with a note to correspondents on Cyprus.
Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, strongly condemned the terrorist attack on the Catholic Church that took place last night in Baghdad.
Melkert extends his condolences to the families of the victims and to the people and the Government of Iraq and wishes a speedy recovery to those who were wounded. He also expressed concern that acts of violence targeting the Iraqi people, of all different backgrounds, continue to claim lives. Every effort should be exerted by all Iraqi leaders to expedite agreement on pending issues, in particular the formation of a Government. And this will help ensure Iraq’s ability to protect its citizens.
The United Nations Integrated Referendum and Electoral Division, together with its international partners, stands ready to support in all aspects the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission as the national authority in charge of conducting the referendum. Denis Kadima, Director of the Division, says its technical assistance includes designing voter registration forms, preparing staff training, developing complaint regulations, designing voter education materials and procuring materials and equipment.
The United Nations provides logistical support to deliver those items to locations throughout Sudan and in the eight counties where Southerners will be able to exercise their right to vote.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has sentenced a former businessman to 30 years in prison for genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity. Gaspard Kanyarukiga was found guilty of planning the killing of Tutsis at a church in 1994, but was acquitted on an alternative charge of complicity in genocide. He was arrested in 2004 in South Africa.
The United Kingdom has assumed the rotating presidency of the Security Council for the month of November, replacing Uganda. UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, the Council President for this month, will brief you on the programme of work for November tomorrow, at 12:30 p.m. in this room.
And also today in this room, at 3 p.m., Githu Muigai, the UN Special Rapporteur on racism and xenophobia, will be able to brief you.
And I am happy to take questions.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Was that briefing at 1 p.m.?
Spokesperson: 3 p.m., it was changed to 3 p.m. Yes?
Question: Does the Secretary-General have a statement on the suicide bombing in Istanbul which took place yesterday? And [inaudible] tripartite meeting between the leaders in Cyprus and the Secretary-General, will the meeting focus on the property issue or will it be a general meeting?
Spokesperson: Well, I think what I can tell you is what we have already said, and that is that it is part of the negotiation process. That is to answer your second question. The second, on the bombing in Istanbul — of course the Secretary-General is aware of this, and he condemns clearly any terrorist attack that targets anybody, particularly here we are talking about an attack in the middle of a major city. That’s what I can tell you. Yes, further questions? Yes?
[The Spokesperson later added that details of the meeting are still being worked out. The leaders will have other meetings between now and the one in New York. The agenda will be finalized closer to the meeting date.]
Question: Brazil has just elected the country’s first woman President, namely Dilma Rousseff, who served as the Chief of Staff and Energy Minister under outgoing President Lula. Has a letter of congratulations been sent out yet by the Office of the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General?
Spokesperson: Not yet, but I know that the Secretary-General is of course aware of the election results and I am sure that there will be such a communication in due course. Eva, I think you had a question?
Question: Yeah, thank you. It’s about Haiti. Well, I was reading the press release sent yesterday by MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti], OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs], about this, the Hurricane Tomas; do you have any update about that, and the situation in Haiti now with the cholera and now the hurricane, how is the situation today? And I don’t know if I missed something, but how is this investigation going about the military base of MINUSTAH, that they were taking some new samples to see if there is any indication that it is related to the outbreak of cholera? Thank you.
Spokesperson: On the storm, I know that our colleagues on the ground are working hard with the Haitian authorities to prepare for that. And I am sure that my colleagues in MINUSTAH could provide some more details on exactly how they are doing that. But they are actively preparing for that. On the other question, about cholera and the tests, we still await the result of that second batch of tests which I had mentioned last week. Yes, Khaled? Sorry.
Question: And when are you expecting to get the result, because I thought it was going to be last Friday, then MINUSTAH said on Saturday, but we don’t have anything yet?
Spokesperson: You are right, we did say that they would be available on Friday because that’s what we had been advised. They are due. We don’t have them yet. That’s what I can tell you. But they will be coming. Yes, Khaled?
Question: Yes, Martin, the Saudi King Abdullah has called for a conference for all the leaders of the Iraqi parties to be held in Saudi Arabia at a date that he did not determine so that he can solve the problem of forming a Government. And I was wondering if this move is being coordinated at all with the United Nations; will the UN representative in Iraq be present or in such a conference?
Spokesperson: A good question. Let me find out. I don’t know that here. Yes, Tim?
Question: Is there any reason why the Secretary-General did not discuss human rights and Liu Xiaobo with the President?
Spokesperson: Well, as I told you…
Question: He has had letters from Human Rights Watch about this issue…
Spokesperson: Yes, he has had a number of letters, that’s correct. What I think we’ve already told you what the Secretary-General did discuss; a number of different topics, including the ones that I read out. But it is correct he did not discuss human rights. Yes?
Question: Martin, any update on the response to the UN appeal for flood in Pakistan, as well as the situation there?
Spokesperson: I don’t have any further figures right here now beyond the ones that Ms. [Valerie] Amos provided last week. But I think that we could quite easily get an update and then we’ll be able to let everybody know. Yes, please?
Question: As the G-20 summit is approaching, a lot of the NGOs and the UN have expressed concern about the increasing influence on the G-20 as potentially rendering obsolete certain functions of the UN, and I was wondering if the Secretary-General shared those concerns or whether he has said anything about it as the summit approaches.
Spokesperson: The Secretary-General will be attending the G-20 meeting; that much is clear. And he has an active role to play there because on the agenda at the G-20 summit is the topic of development. And in that context, the Secretary-General is able to represent the views of all 192 Members of the United Nations, and if you like, the 172 who are not part of the G-20. But this is clearly simply a question of coordination, and it is a very important meeting. The Secretary-General will be playing an active part in that. Okay? Yes, Matthew and then Lou.
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask about Darfur, China and something else. But first on Darfur, I wanted to ask you, it’s been… the Ugandan Army… the military, their main spokesman said on Friday that Joseph Kony has now passed from Central African Republic into Darfur. I know that the UN had set up UNMIS [United Nations Mission in the Sudan] to be part of some… along with MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] and the soon to be finished MINURCAT [United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad] to be looking into the LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army]. But does UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] have a comment on this indicted war criminal, according to Uganda, having gone into Darfur and what in fact would UNAMID do about this [inaudible] case?
Spokesperson: Let me find out.
Question: Also there is a report, just this, a factual thing, but there’s reports of fighting in South Darfur resulting in 10 dead, and I am just wondering, is this the kind of thing that UNAMID tracks? Can it confirm this or…?
Spokesperson: Well, again I am sure UNAMID, if they have information, they’d let us know. I don’t have anything right now.
Question: And on China, I just wanted to ask you this; late last week there was an event held in China in which Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang presented an award to former General ChiHaotian, who was in charge of the army at the time of Tiananmen Square, the World Harmony Award on behalf of an NGO that performs many events here in the UN. And I am just, many people are wondering, did Mr. Sha receive some kind of a… He is an Under-Secretary-General of the UN, in what capacity did he give this award to a Chinese military figure?
Spokesperson: Well, when this report surfaced online last week, at the end of last week, that was the first that we had heard about it, and I don’t have any further comment for now on that story.
Question: Is he on leave? Was he travelling in China in connection with the Secretary-General’s trip or entirely…? Is he on leave? I guess that’s a factual question.
Spokesperson: I don’t think he is on leave, Matthew. But let me find out exactly what the position is, but he is not on leave, as far as I know. Yes, Lou?
Question: Thanks, Martin. I wanted to follow up on Tim’s question. The Secretary-General has been urged to call for the release of the latest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and I just wanted it confirmed that he did not raise the issue of this Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s detention, and if not, why?
Spokesperson: The Secretary-General, as I’ve confirmed just now, did not raise the question of human rights in his discussions with President Hu Jintao. And as you know, there was a statement after the Nobel Peace Prize winner was announced, and that statement still stands.
Question: Did he bring it up, the statement?
Spokesperson: As I said, Lou, the topic was not raised, human rights.
Question: Right. Why? Why wouldn’t it… Peace Prize winner not raised? Why were human rights not raised? It seems a bit odd.
Spokesperson: Well, that’s your characterization. There are many topics on the agenda. Yes, please.
Question: Regarding news stories over the weekend that the Secretary-General has appointed Judge Stephen M. Schwebel to the International Court of Arbitration regarding a dispute between Pakistan and India over a hydroelectric power project in Kashmir; was this appointment part of a good offices role of the Secretary-General envisaged in the UN Charter? Can you elaborate?
Spokesperson: I have to find out more about that. I have to find out more about the background to that. Thank you for the question. Yes?
Question: Thank you. I understand that the Security Council will hold a session on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. I just wondered, who is going to brief the Security Council from the Secretariat, is there anyone who is going to brief the Security Council?
Spokesperson: Well, first of all I think Ambassador Lyall Grant will be here. He is the Council President this month, and he can give you more details on what the programme of work is, whether that topic will indeed be discussed, and if so, who would be briefing. That’s what I have got for you at the moment. Yes, Khaled?
Question: Can I just follow up on Ali’s question? So you have not received an official request from the Security Council for a briefing on the Special Tribunal?
Spokesperson: I am not aware of that. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. I am just not aware of any kind of formal request of that kind.
Question: Will the SG convey the result of the report by the Tribunal on this recent incident in the [inaudible] to the Security Council?
Spokesperson: As I have said, I am not confirming that there is a session. You need to ask Ambassador Lyall Grant tomorrow.
Question: We were told on Friday that the court was preparing a report and the SG is interested in seeing that report. I am asking: Is he going to convey that report to the Security Council?
Spokesperson: Well, I would imagine that the Secretary-General would want to look at it first. And I am not sure that that report exists yet. Yes, Ali.
Question: Just to… Is Mr. [Daniel] Bellemare, Prosecutor of the STL, here in New York? Is he meeting anybody?
Spokesperson: Well, I guess you could ask the Courts; I am not aware of his whereabouts. But, as I said last week, he periodically visits New York to be able to brief relevant people here, including the Council, including the Secretariat on the management side, the administrative side of the court’s activities. Yes?
Question: Yes. Is the Secretary-General currently undertaking any efforts to restart the peace negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, because it is sort of mired now in issue of the settlements moratorium and freeze, and neither side seems to be budging? So, is the Secretary-General making any personal efforts to get those talks restarted?
Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General, as you know, is a part of the Quartet. He liaises closely with other members of the Quartet, and with Senator [George] Mitchell. I am sure that he will continue to be actively engaged in that way. I can’t give you anything specific on anything that’s happened in the last couple days, but I do know that he keeps a very close eye on it. If we have something specific, then I will be very happy to update you.
Question: A follow-up to that. Has he made any comment, or if you are aware if he has an opinion on Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s proposal that if the Palestinians were willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish State, then he would push for a continuation of the freeze on the settlements. Is that the [inaudible] formula…?
Spokesperson: The Quartet has spoken about the way various topics are pending a final settlement and I think that the Secretary-General is fully in line with the Quartet on this, of course, as a member of the Quartet. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure. This is more in house or health-related matter. And I had to leave it to the end. But I wanted to, sort of on a new front…
Spokesperson: We don’t know it’s the end yet. There might be other questions. But…
Question: Yeah. No, no, absolutely, well no, I don’t mean to say that. That there is in New York now, the Health Department has a system under which the representing letter grades for health. They inspect restaurants and any other food facility. And apparently they have… they do inspect… I wasn’t aware of this, but they inspect the UNICEF cafeteria and the DC-One cafeteria, and both have received grades that would be B or in one case C. What I am wondering is whether the facility here in UN Headquarters, does the UN consider this to be outside of that system of health inspections, and if so what can it say about the… given, across the street what the grades are? And also, not to say that the two are related, but what interface has there been with the city government on this bedbug issue and what update can you provide as to the tests that you said last week were being performed in various locations, some here, some out, including one that was supposedly going to be done and or may soon be done on the 2nd floor? So it’s the food issue, and then the bedbug issue.
Spokesperson: Well, on the second, I don’t have an update, and let’s see if we can get one. I don’t have an update. But I do know, as you yourself have said, you’ve been in direct touch with the relevant people from Facilities Management Service. I am sure that if you wanted to, you could do the same again. But for the benefit of others, of course, and for you as well, we’ll see if there is an update. On the first part, health inspections, I would defer to my colleagues who liaise with the city authorities. I don’t know the answer to that.
Question: Should I follow up with them or can you [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: As I said, I will see what we can find out.
[The Spokesperson later added that Aramark said that the cafeteria at United Nations Headquarters was not being inspected.]
Spokesperson: Yeah. All right, any other questions or is Matthew right? Okay, thanks very much.
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