|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 Farhan Haq, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
If you could start taking your seats, in just a few minutes, my guest today will be Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, who is here to give her quarterly press briefing. And she’ll start in just a bit. First, I have some notes for you.
You will have seen the statement we issued on Côte d’Ivoire over the weekend, in which the Secretary-General made clear once more that any attack on UN forces will be an attack on the international community and those responsible for these actions will be held accountable. Any continued actions obstructing and constricting UN operations are similarly unacceptable. The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) will fulfil its mandate and will continue to monitor and document any human rights violations, incitement to hatred and violence, or attacks on UN peacekeepers, the Secretary-General said.
Today in Abidjan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Choi Young-jin, said that UNOCI is focusing on two fundamental aspect of its mandate — the certification of elections and the maintenance of peace, which includes the protection of civilians and the Golf Hotel. Choi said that we estimate at least 50 deaths, 200 people injured and 470 people arbitrarily arrested and detained. Many cases of disappearances have also come to light. He added that, despite being blocked and harassed, most essential UNOCI staff are carrying on with their work, and we are carrying out military and police patrols across the country.
And yesterday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed deep concern about the growing evidence of massive violations of human rights taking place in Côte d’Ivoire since 16 December. She noted the reports about the abduction of individuals from their homes, especially at night, by unidentified armed individuals in military uniform.
Immediately following a briefing by Chairmen of subsidiary bodies, the Security Council began consultations on the situation in Côte d'Ivoire, where Council members are to receive an update on recent developments by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy. There may also be a formal meeting on Côte d’Ivoire later.
The consultations are to be followed by a meeting on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts. Later, the Security Council will hold consultations on the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights.
And yesterday, the Security Council also held consultations on the situation in the Korean peninsula.
The Mediation working to finalize the Doha peace process said in a statement Monday all stakeholders expressed their support to the Doha process, their readiness to endorse the outcomes from the talks and their wish to be closely involved in the final phase of the peace process. The Mediation also plans to consult with the refugees in the near future.
The Mediation says all those consulted particularly stressed the importance of an inclusive process that would deliver a comprehensive and sustainable peace for Darfur. As such, they underscored the necessity for all armed movements to participate without delay.
Consultations between the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Mediation on the Movement’s return to the peace process have resulted in the resumption of ceasefire negotiations between the Government of Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement in Doha.
And last, the UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) reports that the current situation remains tense, following earlier clashes between Sudanese Armed Forces and Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi (SLA/MM) forces in Khor Abeche, north-east of Nyala, South Darfur.
The mission said that, following overnight shelling heard in the outskirts of Khor Abeche, UNAMID expects more internally displaced persons, currently believed to be hiding in the bush, to come to the team site. Urgent humanitarian support is therefore needed.
Like I said, we are about to have with us the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Susana Malcorra. Ms. Malcorra?
[Press Conference by Ms. Malcorra issued separately.]
**Questions and Answers
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I’ll take any other questions on unrelated matters. Yes, Richard?
Question: I heard our guest and you had spoken on Côte d'Ivoire there briefly, I was running around the building, but… I know you made a statement at the beginning there, but what is the current state of play for the UN on Côte d’Ivoire with the President threatening the UN must leave?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the current state of play, as you will have seen the statement that the Secretary-General issued on Saturday about this: One thing he made clear is that the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) will fulfil its mandate, it will continue to monitor and document any human rights violations, incitement to hatred and violence, or attacks on UN peacekeepers.
He also made it very clear that any attacks on UN forces will be an attack on the international community and that those responsible for these actions will be held accountable.
The Security Council this morning received a briefing from Under-Secretary-General Alain Le Roy about the situation on the ground, and they are also considering the matter. We do expect them to weigh in on this as well. Yeah?
Question: Can I just follow up there? I keep getting asked by my authorities, what happens if the Côte d'Ivoire Government forces loyal to the President attack the UN peacekeepers or the UN forces there?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I don’t want to speculate on hypothetical circumstances. One thing I want to point out, however, is that the Security Council has endorsed the recognition by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and by the African Union of Alassane Ouattara as President-elect. Laurent Gbagbo lost the election, and as such, the international community has called for him to step aside and yield power to Mr. Ouattara. The matter is being brought to the attention of the Security Council, and the basic point there is that the Security Council established the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), and is the only body with the authority to terminate its mandate. Yes?
Question: Sure. I wanted to… yesterday in this all-day Security Council meeting about DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] or the Korean peninsula, both Ambassador [Vitaly] Churkin, Ambassador [Susan] Rice and they both seemed to say that all 15 members were supportive of the idea of the Secretary-General naming a Special Envoy to the Korean peninsula. They didn’t end up adopting a statement because of disputes about who to blame or who to condemn. But is it something that, I guess… what does the Secretary-General think of that idea and is he actually going to name an envoy?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, first of all, the Secretary-General did send Mr. [B. Lynn] Pascoe earlier this year to the Korean peninsula, and so he has already taken some initiative regarding efforts to deal with the question of good offices in the Korean peninsula itself. However, in terms of appointing an envoy, what we are doing at this stage is waiting to see what kind of unified decision, if any, the Security Council can take on the question of the Korean peninsula. As you yourself pointed out just now, they didn’t come to any decision yesterday, and I don’t know whether there will be a statement by the Security Council. But if there is one, we would respond to that.
Question: But there is… I guess the question was asked of Ambassador Churkin whether he thought that the Secretary-General should go forward. In the sense of, are you saying that you can only go forward if you have some kind of press statement or do the statements of the President of the Council saying…
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: No, no, as I pointed out, Mr. Pascoe went, I believe in February of this year, as it was. So, it’s not dependent on action by the Security Council. However, in this case, the Security Council had been working out different types of language, and we would wait to see what it is that they have to say before responding to it.
Question: So has Secretary-General completely ruled out appointing a Special Envoy for DPRK?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: No, it’s just fitting at this stage for a matter that’s under consideration by the Security Council for us to wait to see what it is, what decision that they come to. Yes, Khaled?
Question: What we’re saying is that what is under consideration by the Council and the statement, and concerning, as you know, Matthew said, who is to blame and who is to condemn, but both Mr. Churkin and Mrs. Rice said yesterday there was agreement on the need for an envoy, different from the task taken by Mr. Pascoe in February. So, what does the Secretary-General feel about that?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, if there is an agreement among Council members, we are sure that that can manifest itself in a unified position taken by the Security Council and we’d await that.
Question: But he said he had a unified position on the envoy, but not on the condemnation issue. That’s what he said.
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, like I said, if they can agree on any particular point, we would await that particular agreement and respond in kind. Yes?
Question: Thank you. On Côte d'Ivoire, tension is still mounting and the senior General of President Gbagbo said that he is going to go into action soon if necessary. The European Community has already sanctioned the Gbagbo Government, they decided that they will not issue visas for him or his colleagues — the ministers and high officials. When is the UN going to take some action? Is the Credentials Committee going to meet soon to take action? And as to whom they would allow entry into the UN premises?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I don’t have any date for when or if the Credentials Committee would meet on this issue. However, like I said earlier, the Security Council is discussing the matter today. There is a possibility of a formal meeting on Côte d'Ivoire by the Security Council later in the day, and we’ll have to see whether they hold one. Yes?
Question: Yeah, the Iran supreme leader that any judgment from the Special Tribunal of Lebanon would be null and void. The United Nations, do you have any response?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have a specific comment to his remarks, but we continue to support the work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. We believe that the Tribunal is doing its work in a methodical and responsible manner, and we will support the decisions that they take as they proceed. Yes?
Question: Was about the reports that Mr. [Gerhard] Lehman was selling documents of the Tribunal to anyone who paid $50,000 or more?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: At this stage I would leave it to the Tribunal to respond to any allegations made against any of its personnel.
Question: Have you been following these allegations?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: We’ve certainly been following it, but at this stage, the Tribunal, as you know, has sometimes been responding to the allegations that have been made about its work and they have been trying to defend their own professionalism of their work. And we leave it to them to comment on this.
Question: But the incident Nisar is referring to was before the present court even came into existence…
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, it’s about the IIIC [International Independent Investigation Commission], which is the predecessor for the prosecution of the Special Tribunal. So, we would leave it, like I said, to them.
Question: In this case, even it was before the establishment of Mr. [Daniel] Bellemare’s office and before the present court if we want a reaction to [inaudible].
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I think we’d leave the first reaction to the Special Tribunal, they are the ones who have been following up on this. Matthew?
Question: Sure, I want to ask about Sri Lanka and then Darfur. Just on Sri Lanka, I think you’d said last week, if I understood you correctly, that there might be an announcement about an extension of the period to comment, due to some problems of people had of having their comments received. Is there an announcement on that? And also when is the panel going to travel to Sri Lanka? Does it extend their deadline to do the report from mid-January? And will the report be made public?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Okay, well, on Sri Lanka, as the Secretary-General made clear, he would review whatever the panel gives him and then decide at that point about making anything public. Regarding the extension, yes, I believe the [period of] the submissions to the panel has been extended to the end of this year, from the previous deadline of mid-December. And third, about its meetings with the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, there is nothing to announce yet at this stage. Any arrangements would need to be worked out. It’s being considered.
Question: Is it still the idea that they will file the report with the Secretary-General by 15 January?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: They are on track to put out a report on their schedule. I don’t have a precise date for when that will happen. Yes?
Question: On Western Sahara, as you know, there was no agreement whatsoever as far as the political and substantive discussions were concerned. Is the Secretary-General disappointed? And what are his thoughts at this stage?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: No, not at all. The process is continuing forward and you will have seen the communiqué that the Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross, put out. And that describes what the state of play is on Western Sahara, and we’ll continue to encourage that process. Erol?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. As you know, Bosnia and Herzegovina will assume the presidency of the Security Council next year as the first-time member, non-permanent member of the Security Council. It has been broadly reported in Bosnian and regional press that all the time the Foreign Minister of Bosnia meet the Secretary-General, and if I am not wrong he met him about four times this year, the Secretary-General expressed his support and his willingness to assist on behalf of the Secretariat to Bosnia during its presidency and during its membership? What can you tell about that?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: There is nothing really further to say. We try to support all Member States whenever they assume the membership of the Security Council. Some delegations have particular needs for support, others have less of that, given their experience, the amount of people in the Mission and so forth. And we adjust accordingly.
Question: So, that’s all, nothing special that you have…?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: There is nothing exceptional. This is in keeping with how we deal with countries assuming the presidency of the Security Council. Whatever support they need, the Secretariat is willing to provide.
Question: Yesterday, the settlers in the West Bank attacked Palestinians and they burned their live cattle, their cattle while they were alive. Do you have any statement on that, or reaction?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: There is no specific reaction from the Special Coordinator’s Office on this. However, you are well aware of the Secretary-General’s position concerning settlement activity, and we continue to hold by that position. Yes?
Question: I have a question related to my earlier question. Is the delegation of the Côte d'Ivoire of President Gbagbo still coming into the UN? Is he still seated in the meetings?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I believe, I will just refer you, as you know, that person had been seated there during the last Security Council meeting on that, and the President of the Council had some comment about the seating of that person. So I will just refer you back to that particular meeting. Yes?
Question: Sure, this is the Darfur and Sudan questions. One is that there, it was said, it’s been said that 19 December by Mr. [Djibril] Bassolé and others that 19 December, this agreement with LJM — Liberation and Justice Movement — was going to be signed in Doha. The deadline came and it was not signed. I just wonder, what’s the UN think of that? Do they think it will get signed, or are they trying to get it signed before 9 January? And also there is this controversy in Sudan around a video that emerged of a woman being whipped, under Sharia law, for wearing pants. It’s an issue that arose about a UN staff member and now has arisen in another context, and I wonder whether it is [Haile] Menkerios, [Ibrahim] Gambari, does anybody have any comment on that?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, for that I would refer you onward to Navi Pillay’s office, who have been taking seriously the question of the basic rights of women — not just in Sudan, of course, but elsewhere, but they have looked upon concerned about these. Regarding your other question, I have the statement from the Mediation to the Doha peace process. We don’t have anything further beyond that for today. But there is that statement which is available in our Office. Last question.
Question: Yeah, just technical one, Farhan. I wonder, when the Secretary-General sends his holiday season, the congratulations to the correspondents, does he or the people who are working that for him or doing that for him, do they send that to everybody from the UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association] list or they choose and pick and they do not send to someone and how it works?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: The Secretary-General has a Christmas-card/holiday-season-card list and he sends to people as he chooses. I wouldn’t have anything further to say about that. That’s up to his judgement.
Question: Okay, and so he doesn’t send to everybody?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I really have nothing further to say on that.
Question: And also, how he invites the people for his end-of-the-year/season reception, his private reception also?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Again, that’s based on his particular judgement. Thanks very much. Bye.
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