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

7 December 2010

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

7 December 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.

**Secretary-General in Cancún

The Secretary-General has just arrived in Cancún, Mexico, and, as you know, he will be opening the High-Level Segment of the Climate Change Conference there this afternoon.  And we have copies of his speech available under embargo in my Office.

The Secretary-General will also meet today with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, as well as with representatives of the African Group, the European Union, the Group of 77 and China and the United States.

Later, the Secretary-General will hold a press conference, at around 7 p.m. in the evening ( New York time), and we will have a transcript of that for you as soon as possible.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning heard a briefing on the latest developments in Côte d’Ivoire from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Choi Young-jin, who spoke to Council members by videoconference from Abuja, Nigeria, where he also spoke to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Choi told the Council that the moment has come to safeguard the results of Côte d’Ivoire’s elections.  He said that he had completed an analysis and evaluation of 20,000 tally sheets, and the results that he obtained clearly showed that Alassane Ouattara won the second round of elections, even if all of Laurent Gbagbo’s objections had been taken into account.  Choi said that ignoring the will of the people of Côte d’Ivoire at this stage would be a let-down and a waste of significant resources invested by the international community.

As you will have seen, the Security Council then continued its discussions with Choi in closed consultations.

**Gaza

The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Maxwell Gaylard, voiced his concern today about the forced closure on 30 November by the local authorities in Gaza of all Gaza-based offices of the non‑governmental organization Sharek Youth Forum.  He called Sharek an important NGO partner of the United Nations in its work on behalf of children and young people in Gaza.

Gaylard said that freedom of association and freedom of expression are fundamental rights protected by international law, as well as the Palestinian Basic Law.  He expressed his hope that Sharek would be permitted to continue its work in Gaza without further delay or undue hindrance.

**Refugees

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) is urging the Egyptian Government to intervene for the release of some 250 Eritreans who have been held hostage for one month by human traffickers in the Sinai.  Egypt’s Ministry of the Interior has assured UNHCR that around-the-clock efforts are under way to locate the hostages and release them.

The agency also reported that donor Governments today in Geneva pledged nearly $600 million for its operations next year to help millions of forcibly displaced and stateless people around the world.  This is the highest amount to have been contributed in a single pledging session, the agency said.

That’s what I have for you.  I am happy to take questions.  Questions, please?  Yes, Tim?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  In France, a French epidemiologist, Renaud Piarroux, has released a report… not released a report, but details of a report have come out saying that the source of the cholera in Haiti has been traced to the UN peacekeepers’ camp.  I wonder if you have anything to comment on that or anything to add to that?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Mission is certainly aware of the report that you refer to by the French epidemiologist you mention.  MINUSTAH has neither accepted nor dismissed his findings.  What the Mission has said is that this is one report among many, which of course the United Nations has taken very seriously.  The Mission has conducted a number of tests from waters inside the military camp, between the camp and the river, and the river itself, and all their results have proven negative.  And at this point the Mission says there is no conclusive evidence.  The Mission is continuing to consult with a broad range of specialists and scientists to gather the maximum information possible, and it remains very receptive to any scientific debate or investigation on this.

And one thing that I would also stress is that, as you recall, last Friday, the Secretary-General spoke to General Assembly members, and he made three points.  First of all, that the Mission is monitoring the situation very closely by drawing water supplies, and so on.  And secondly, that a team of experts had been deployed to review all sanitation systems at the Mission’s, MINUSTAH’s, military, police and civilian installations.  And thirdly, and most significantly in this context, the Secretary-General said that he’d instructed the Mission to actively follow up on any additional information it may receive on the origins of the current outbreak.

And this includes cooperating fully with national or competent authorities in any further effort to shed light on the source of the epidemic, to improve treatment for victims and to prevent further spread.  The people of Haiti deserve nothing less, is what he said.

And obviously, taking all this into account, still the biggest challenge at the moment is to treat people and to help the people who have been affected by this.  And that remains a major challenge, of course, as you know.  Yes, Barbara?

Question:  Do you have any details, Martin, on how the Mission might follow up on this French report if the Secretary-General was asking it to actively follow up on any evidence or signs of its origins?  That’s one question.  And secondly, do you know who might be representing the United Nations, if anyone, at the Nobel Prize winning ceremony on Friday?

Spokesperson:  Right, on the first one, as you mentioned, the Secretary-General asked the Mission to follow up on any additional information that it may receive.  And therefore, that clearly implies that, as the Mission itself has said, that it takes the various reports that there have been very seriously.  So this needs to be looked into further.  And I am sure that the Mission will give us more information on that in due course.  The key point here is that the Mission is neither accepting nor dismissing the findings.  It’s saying that there is no conclusive evidence.  It’s also saying that it will cooperate fully with any competent authorities to try to shed further light on this.  And again, most importantly, the key task at the moment is to help those people affected.

And on the second question, to my knowledge, the United Nations was not invited to this event in Oslo by the Committee.  To my knowledge, this is an event that involves invitations to the embassies accredited in Oslo, in Norway.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  As you know, on Côte d'Ivoire, the conflict is not only between Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo, but also between the Constitutional Council and the Independent Electoral Commission.  The United Nations has taken a stand; not a neutral stand, but the one in favour of some candidate who supposedly has won.  Do you think it is possible, still, for the United Nations to work out a compromise in the situation?

Spokesperson:  The UN role is a very specific one that was set out in a Security Council mandate, and indeed, as the Special Representative said this morning, in his open briefing to the Security Council, this was, in addition, at the request of the Ivorian authorities.  And what the role has been is to certify the outcome.  And this, the Mission, under Special Representative Choi Young-jin, has done, and what he has said today is that the important thing is to safeguard this result, and also that it would not be right to ignore the will of the people.  I think he has been quite clear on that, and as I have said to you before from here, not just the Special Representative, but the regional organization that was meeting in Abuja today, ECOWAS, has been very clear on this, as have a number of national Governments, including the United States and France, and also including the European Union.  Yes?

Question:  Martin, there are some reports saying that Israel will apologize to Turkey and pay compensation for the flotilla incident.  Has the Secretary-General received any update on the Commission’s report so far?  And do we expect the Israeli side to submit their report soon?

Spokesperson:  Well, clearly we have said that we would like those findings to be made available as soon as possible to enable the panel to be able to complete its work.  The Secretary-General has been updated periodically.  I would need to check when the most recent update was.  Yes?

Question:  To go back to Haiti, who on the side of the UN is an expert enough to say that it was not conclusive?  Do they have specialists who can say that?

Spokesperson:  What we have said and what the Mission has said is that there are a number of reports out there, and this is one report among many.  This doesn’t mean that it’s not being taken seriously.  It also doesn’t mean that there won’t be any follow-up.  As I’ve said, the Secretary-General has explicitly stated that the Mission should follow up actively on any additional information.  This is clearly additional information; it will be followed up on.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Last Sunday the United Nations humanitarian commissioner said that there should be continued assistance from the international community for displaced persons in Pakistan’s affected areas, either by conflict or by floods.  I just wanted to ask you, the new SRSG [Special Representative] appointed by the Secretary-General, I think in August, was it…  Has he presented any report?  Besides what Ms. [Valerie] Amos has said, has he presented a report of his own?

Spokesperson:  I’d need to check.  I am sorry…

Question:  Is it still being awaited, this new SRSG’s report?

Spokesperson:  I’d need to check.  I do know that he is on the ground in Islamabad because I saw him myself when we made a stopover on the way back from Kazakhstan just last week.  So I’d need to check on the status of that.  But clearly he is on the ground and very actively involved, working together with international community and obviously with the Pakistani authorities.  Yes?

Question:  A follow-up.  Is he based in Pakistan or is he going back and forth? Is it full-time?

Spokesperson:  I need to check.  My understanding was that he is working out of Islamabad, but let me check.  Yes, please?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  On climate negotiations in Cancún, as you are aware, there are some media reports projecting a very grim or rather pessimistic outcome of the Cancún meeting.  What are the expectations of how the Secretary-General feels about all this, because he is on the ground?  Is he optimistic or pessimistic?  Would he consider, if that fails, as his personal failure or what?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, he has just arrived there, and I think the most important thing is to look at two things.  One is that we have consistently said that it’s unlikely that there would be an overall framework agreement reached in Cancún.  Unlikely, that’s the first point.  That doesn’t mean, as a second point, that progress cannot be made.  It can be made, and will be made, and in a number of specific areas that we’ve referred to, including reforestation, technology transfer, for example, financing and in those kinds of areas where, short of an overall framework agreement, you can make important steps.  And those steps together will help to move the whole process forward.  That’s the Secretary-General’s firm belief and his firm intention in going to Cancún to help to move things forward.  He will have, as I have mentioned, active discussions with key players to help to keep the ball rolling.  I am going this way to our lonely friend over here on the other side.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  I want to ask you about Sudan.  There have been — the SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] has come out and said that, now Monday and Tuesday of this week, that Khartoum has bombed West Bahr El-Ghazal State and they’re calling for a UN investigation and saying this could throw the referendum off track.  What has UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan] done to investigate it and what does UN say to this call for an investigation?

Spokesperson:  Well, as far as I know from UNMIS, they have been informed by the SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army] that an aerial bombing took place yesterday, 15 miles north-east of Timsaha.  And a monitoring and verification team led by UNMIS is on the ground trying to verify the incident.  So that’s as much as I have at the moment.

Question:  What about this thing that I asked you yesterday about the transitional Darfur regional authority being raided by the Sudanese authorities in Darfur?  Does Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari or UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur], have they been able in the many hours since that happened to confirm it?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything specific for you on that at the moment, no.  Okay?

[The Spokesperson later added that, at this stage, the Mission is looking into the possible implications of recent statements and actions by the Government of Sudan and the Sudan Armed Forces and will discuss it with the Government.]

Question:  Can I ask a question about Myanmar?  You said yesterday at the end of those two meetings of the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General on Myanmar and of the Security Council, the UK Ambassador and some other countries said that they have raised in the meeting, apparently the one with the Secretary-General in it, that the Secretary-General should consider a full-time envoy, i.e. someone other than Vijay Nambiar, to be the envoy to Myanmar and that Mr. Nambiar indicated that that may be in the process.  Could you have any… can you say that… again, this just what ambassadors said after the closed-door meetings, but what is the Secretariat’s position on naming a full-time envoy, and what would they be looking for in such a person?

Spokesperson:  Well, let me check on this.  But as we’ve said, Mr. Nambiar, wearing that particular hat, is ably assisted by people within the Secretariat who work on this full-time.  So, he has the full support that he needs to do the job that he has been doing in that Special Adviser role.  But let me check on what you’ve mentioned.

Question:  So you disagree with this call by…?

Spokesperson:  Matthew, I said I’ll check.  I didn’t say I disagree, I said I’ll check, okay?

Question:  Okay.  What about the visa, the granting of a visa for Mr. Nambiar [inaudible]? 

Spokesperson:  Well, as I mentioned to you, when we spoke after the briefing yesterday, I believe it was really a matter for the Myanmar authorities.  And I am sure that you could contact them and ask them.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Now, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we have not heard much recently from Ambassador [George] Mitchell.  And there are some reports indicating that the US might withdraw from the talks to concentrate on important domestic issues.  What is the current thinking of the Secretary-General as far as this issue is concerned?

Spokesperson:  Well, that’s really not a question for us, but a question for the United States authorities.  We work within the Quartet, and that involves working with the various players there to help to keep those talks on track.  So any other questions on that related to the specific point you’ve raised, that’s something for the US authorities to answer.

Question:  What about Ivory Coast?  Is there any concern from the Secretary-General that he doesn’t seem to have the unanimous support of States, of Member States, and the Security Council has still to come with some kind of statement on the situation there?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I understand it, the Security Council is discussing this right now.  And I am sure you will be able to ask them afterwards what the outcome of their discussions has been.  The important point here is that the work that was undertaken and still being done on the ground by our mission is under clear Security Council mandates, and indeed, as I mentioned earlier, at the explicit request of the Ivorian authorities.  This has been carried out faithfully by the Special Representative on the ground with, as you know, a team of peacekeepers, police and civilian personnel.  Okay?

Question:  Follow-up on Côte d’Ivoire?  I have been told, in the consultations this morning, that Russia asked that the Secretariat, the UN Secretariat, to somehow make a correction to the record to something that Susan Rice as President of the Council said at the end of the open session, purportedly on behalf of the Council.  And I am just wondering, if you can find out, what are the provisions for the Secretariat, or whether it’s Security Council Affairs or the Verbatim Unit, to actually make a correction as has been requested, I am told, by Russia?

Spokesperson:  Well, that’s really something for the Security Council to comment on.  You need to…

Correspondent:  They asked the Secretariat, that’s why I am…

Spokesperson:  Well, I would ask you to… First of all, I wasn’t in the consultations, so I don’t know what was said.  Secondly, the Presidency of the Security Council resides with the United States, so please ask their Mission spokesman.

Correspondent:  You have a member that said that they want something said by the President, [inaudible] to be corrected by the Secretariat.  I understand this is kind of a circle, circular…

Spokesperson:  Well, when you’re going round in circles, you have to start somewhere.  So, please start with the US Mission.

Question:  The Chinese were hoping for negotiations between the United States and North Korea.  Is that something that has any basis in reality, or is that just wishful thinking?

Spokesperson:  I assume that you are referring to the comments from Beijing, from the Foreign Ministry today.  I don’t have anything specific to say on that.  The Secretary-General has been very clear on his thinking on that particular topic, and I don’t have anything to add on that.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  On the Western Sahara, I raised the question the other day about the release of the prisoner Ould Sidi Mouloud by the Polisario and his being turned over to UNHCR in Mauritania.  Does the Secretary-General think that he should be free to return to Tindouf?

Spokesperson:  Let me check, let me check on whether we have a response on that.  Yeah?

Question:  Martin, I know it’s probably a bit late, but just to put the question on the record, while in Lisbon, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with the President of Bosnian presidency, Mr. [Nebojša] Radmanović.  He invited him to Bosnia.  He said, apparently according to the media report, he would like to go.  Is he intending to go soon, or how it goes?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you know how it goes, that the Secretary-General gets lots of invitations.  Let’s see what happens.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Yeah, I wanted to… this has to do with Mr. [Charles] Petrie, who is, I guess, is still serving, although he resigned as of 1 November in Burundi.  But I wanted to… your office had sent me something saying that while still in the employ of the UN, he will do some work for the UN Office on Somalia in close collaboration with Mr. [Augustine] Mahiga.  But I spoke to Mr. Mahiga yesterday, and he seemed to… this doesn’t seem to be the case.  I guess I want to know, what’s the UN’s understanding of former or current… what is Mr. Petrie’s status?  Is he still a UN official?  Is he still on the payroll?  And the work he is going to be doing in Somalia, is it for the UN or is it directly for the TFG [Transitional Federal Government], as I was told yesterday? And what are the rules of a UN official becoming a kind of a freelance or independent contractor [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  This is another one of these circular things.  I mean, I think that …

Question: I think it’s pretty UN.  It’s like, are you still paying him and will you be paying him in the future when he works for the TFG?

Spokesperson:  No, I am referring to your line of questioning.  You asked a question before, or a number of questions, as is often the case, in one go, and you received a reply.  And that reply you just referred to, and that’s where we are.

Correspondent:  And then I spoke to Mr. Mahiga; it said close collaboration with Mr. Mahiga, but I saw him yesterday.  “Charles, no one knows who Charles is working for”.  So, now I am back asking you…

Spokesperson:  And as I say, we had guidance which we’ve given you.  And that’s…

Question:  Is there any new guidance?  Because…

Spokesperson:  If there is, I’d give it to you.  But, as I have said to you, this was very clearly passed on to you so that you were able to use it, as I believe is the case.

All right, thank you very much.  Yeah, thank you very much.

* *** *

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