|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.
My guest today is Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and he is here to discuss recent peacekeeping challenges, including those in Haiti and Côte d'Ivoire.
Before I hand the floor to Mr. Le Roy, I just wanted to draw your attention to two statements.
**Secretary-General on Côte d’Ivoire
As you are aware, we issued a statement on Côte d’Ivoire earlier this morning, saying that the Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the continuing political stalemate in Côte d’Ivoire. The situation is taking a worrying turn with unfolding events that could lead to widespread violence.
The Secretary-General reiterates his call on all the Ivorian parties and their supporters to exercise patience and refrain from any actions that could, accidentally or deliberately, provoke violence. He stresses that, in the currently charged political environment, such actions could have unpredictable consequences, including reigniting civil war. The Secretary-General therefore reminds those who incite or perpetrate violence, and those who use the media for this purpose, that they will be held accountable for their actions. And we have the full statement in English and French in my office and online.
**Secretary-General on Iran
We also have a statement issued just a little while ago attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Iran.
The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest possible terms the suicide bombing at a mosque in Chabahar, Iran, which has reportedly left scores of people dead and many more injured. He is shocked and dismayed by this abhorrent terrorist act directed at mourners commemorating the holy day of Ashura. The Secretary-General conveys his sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government and the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
So that’s what I have for you now. I will have a few other items at the end of Mr. Le Roy’s part of this briefing, and I will gladly hand the floor to you for some opening remarks, and then we’ll take questions for about 20 minutes after that. Welcome.
[Press Conference by Mr. Le Roy issued separately.]
So I have just a couple of other items.
The Security Council began a meeting an hour ago in which Council members voted to approve three resolutions, closing several major Chapter VII mandates relating to Iraq, including on weapons of mass destruction and the oil-for-food programme. That meeting is being chaired by Vice-President Joseph Biden of the United States.
The Secretary-General addressed the Council meeting, saying that today’s events are a milestone for Iraq, in which we recognize how far the country has come in key aspects of its journey to normalize its status in the community of nations.
He commended Iraq’s leaders for their recent agreements ending months of political deadlock, and he urged Iraq’s political blocs to honour their agreements and move swiftly to conclude the process. A new Government, he said, will face many challenges, including normalizing Arab-Kurd relations in the disputed areas, and ensuring the protection of all minorities, including Christians.
The Secretary-General paid tribute to the resilience of the Iraqi people, and said that the United Nations will continue to stand with them as an impartial partner.
The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities met today in Nicosia. Alexander Downer, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, said that further progress was made on the issue of the economy. As you’ll recall, the Secretary-General met with the leaders last month in New York, and is slated to hold another meeting with them in late January in Geneva.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has expressed its shock and sorrow at the loss of lives after the sinking of a vessel presumed to be carrying asylum-seekers off Christmas Island. The agency says that far too many people are tragically losing their lives as they take desperate measures to escape conflict, persecution and poverty. We have a statement from UNHCR in my office and I can also tell you that the Secretary-General is aware of this incident and shares the concern at the loss of lives.
**Noon Guest Tomorrow
The guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). He will be here to brief correspondents on UNODC’s programme of work for West Africa. And also participating in the briefing will be Ambassador James Victor Gbeho, President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, and Said Djinnit, who is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA).
**Press Conferences Tomorrow
And a couple of other press conferences, finally, tomorrow: one at 11 a.m., by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. That will be on the fifth International Human Solidarity Day, which will be observed on 20 December, with the theme of “Intergenerational Solidarity and Poverty Reduction”.
And then at 1 p.m., the International Organization for Migration (IOM) will hold a press conference to brief correspondents on the IOM World Migration Report for 2010.
So that’s that. I think we’ve had quite a good round of questions today; so I am just going to take one or two questions. Yes?
**Questions and Answers
Question: [Question in French on Western Sahara and the role of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross]
Spokesperson: First of all, on tomorrow, I am not going to prejudge what’s going to happen tomorrow, but obviously the Secretary-General’s report speaks for itself. On the role of Christopher Ross, he, is of course, a crucial player in helping to bring together the sides to help to make progress. And that’s the whole point of having these informal meetings, and of course with the aim of moving further than simply informal meetings, important though they are. On the venue, I think the key thing here is to have an atmosphere that is conducive to making progress — an atmosphere in which the parties can speak freely and are able to do so in a way that gives them the feeling that they are together in an environment without outside distractions, if you like. And that’s certainly not unique to this set of negotiations or informal meetings. This is something that you have seen with many other meetings and negotiations over the years on many different topics.
Question: A follow-up on that, Martin. As you said, this informal meeting would take place tomorrow in Long Island…
Spokesperson: No, I didn’t say it would take place tomorrow in Long Island. I said that referring to the Secretary-General’s report, not the informal meeting. The informal meeting is something slightly different that I am referring to.
Question: I am talking about the informal meeting tomorrow, then. As you know, there have been several rounds of informal meetings before that were not conclusive. And we know Ambassador Ross is a very capable person, but would the Secretary-General at this stage, and with a view to giving new impetus to these discussions, be willing to assist himself in one of the substantive meetings, or at least send a personal message to the meeting?
Spokesperson: Well, as you know, the Secretary-General monitors these things closely and he has full confidence in the expertise of Mr. Ross, who has been working on this topic for some time. The Greentree meeting, as I understand it, is over three days, if I have understood it correctly, from 16 to 18 [December]. So does he have a specific message? I think that that is as always that he would be keen for the sides to be able to make progress, and that’s why he is pleased that Mr. Ross is working with the parties, and will be speaking and that they will be meeting at Greentree. That’s an important step in the right direction. Obviously there is more to be done.
Question: But given the fact that we have seen a series of inconclusive meetings, can the Secretary-General think of a new procedure in order to promote some kind of progress at the forthcoming meeting?
Spokesperson: Well, as you know, there have been discussions, and there were discussions about confidence-building measures, and as I understand it, some progress has been made in that field, as I understand it, including on flights that are to help to bring people together again; family flights that are for family reunions. That’s one area where there has been… they are not there yet, but they are discussing how they can do that, and trying to fix a flight schedule, as I understand it. Okay, yes? I think we’ll make this the last question.
Question: Yeah, I wanted to ask about Somalia and Sri Lanka. On Somalia, it’s been pretty widely reported that the Transitional Federal Government has now barred the work of UNICEF, and I believe WFP [World Food Programme] and other humanitarian agencies for the UN’s failure to, they say, appear at a meeting concerning the drought. Can you confirm or deny that humanitarian work in Somalia has come to a halt?
Spokesperson: I’ve seen those reports and we did look into them, and I think that this has been overtaken by events. It is not the case. It is not the case.
Question: All right. And also on WFP and Somalia, there is this issue of whether WFP as, you know, the UN system’s humanitarian agency, whether it should, does Ban Ki-moon think that its agreement with the Organization of Islamic Conference should be withheld? It emerged that Mr. [Mark] Bowden hadn’t seen; the OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] hadn’t seen it. Is there some kind of a UN best practice on disclosing this type of agreement, particularly given the issues of corruption that arose there?
Spokesperson: I don’t really have anything to add to the comments that were made by our guests earlier in the week.
Question: Okay. And also on Somalia, AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] has acknowledged ramming the office of Radio Shebelle radio station. I just wonder, given the issues around free press, if the Secretariat, which provides some assistance to AMISOM, has any comment on that?
Spokesperson: Not at the moment.
Question: This, Sri Lanka, is very simple, it’s a logistical one. Today I believe is the end of their acceptance of submissions of evidence for the Secretary-General’s Panel. A number of people, I have received a number of complaints from people that submitted and were told that storage allocation exceeded, and their submissions were bounced back to them; they were unable to submit it by the deadline. Others, it showed a response that said the Secretariat is out until 31 December of this year. I just wonder if you are aware of that? Have you heard anything about that panel, or do they know that in fact some people’s submissions were not accepted, and is there any idea of extending the time and why is the Secretariat — I know that it is a holiday season, but what work is going to take place if the Secretariat itself is out of the office until the end of the year, between now and the impending deadline of the submission of the report?
Spokesperson: Let me check on this. I am pretty sure that our colleagues who are working on this are working on it.
Thank you very much.
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