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

26 January 2011

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

26 January 2011
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.

So, good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the briefing.

**Noon Guest

My guest today is Catherine Bragg who is the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.  And she’s here to report on her humanitarian mission to Sri Lanka last week.  And I understand that Ms. Bragg has some introductory remarks, and then we’ll have — after that — about 15 minutes for questions.  So, please.

[Press conference by Ms. Bragg issued separately.]

**Secretary-General in Switzerland

The Secretary-General met in Geneva today with the Cypriot leaders, and afterwards he told the press that there has been progress since the last meeting he had with the leaders in November.  And based on the discussions today, he said it is clear that the two leaders worked to move closer together through a range of bridging proposals.  Nonetheless, he said, more work must be done on the outstanding core issues.

The Secretary-General said the two sides have also agreed to intensify the negotiations through a series of additional meetings in the coming weeks.  And he’s pledged to make himself available to them again soon.

The Secretary-General also addressed the Conference on Disarmament today, telling its members that their continued deadlock has ominous implications for international security.

And earlier he spoke at the first session of the Accountability Commission for Women’s and Children’s Health.

**Security Council

The Security Council heard a briefing on the situation in Sudan from the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Atul Khare.  He said that, despite clashes in Darfur, there has been some progress in the political process.  The mediators will work with all parties in Doha next month to achieve consensus on the terms for peace in Darfur.  Khare said that there has been no recent violence in Abyei, but added that tensions there mean that there is always a threat that violence may recur.

Ibrahim Gambari, the UN-African Union Joint Special Representative for Darfur, briefed Council members by videoconference.  He discussed new fighting, which has displaced some 43,000 people in Darfur. He said that the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission, UNAMID, has stepped up patrolling in villages affected by the fighting to pave the way for the return of people displaced by the conflict.  And he said fighting had continued yesterday in the area between El Fasher and Shangil Tobaya, but that has subsided today.

And I can also tell you that patrols from UNAMID’s Graida team site, located 100 kilometres south of Nyala, in South Darfur, were denied access yesterday by Sudanese Government forces at two different checkpoints.

** Somalia

Augustine Mahiga, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, announced that a special high-level meeting on Somalia will take place in Addis Ababa on the sidelines of the African Union Summit.  The meeting, jointly convened by the Secretary-General and the Chairman of the African Union Commission, will review the current status of the peace process in Somalia.  Mahiga said that there was unanimous agreement, both inside and outside Somalia, that the transitional period has to end in August, as envisaged under the Djibouti Peace Agreement.

** Tunisia

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said today that a team of top-level specialists from her Office is assembling in Tunisia, and will officially start its week-long assessment of human rights priorities there on Thursday.  The team will meet with the interim authorities, civil society groups, UN agencies on the ground and other key actors.

Pillay said that human rights abuses were at the heart of the problems faced by the people of Tunisia.  And therefore, human rights must be at the forefront of the solutions to those problems.

She said that the team’s observations and recommendations will enable her to put together a set of concrete proposals for immediate and future action to improve the human rights situation in the country.

**Holocaust Commemoration

Tomorrow, the United Nations will mark the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.  The ceremony, to be held in the General Assembly Hall from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., is open to journalists with their UN grounds pass.  And the theme of this year’s memorial ceremony is “Women and the Holocaust:  Courage and Compassion”.

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

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Do you have any information from Gabon, about whether Andre Mba is still at UNDP headquarters?

Spokesperson:  Well, what I can tell you is that Mba Obame, the leader of the “Union Nationale”, is in the UN compound along with 19 members of his team, his entourage and a number of party leaders.  I can tell you that he handed a letter to the Resident Coordinator requesting United Nations protection and saying that they feared for their lives if they step outside of the UN office.  So, the UN Resident Coordinator is consulting with authorities on the ground in Gabon, and obviously with Headquarters here in New York.  But, as I say, to confirm that he is indeed in the UN compound.  Yes, Erol?

Question:  Martin, now that the flotilla report is somehow in the next stage after this Israeli clearance with their own report, what is the next step from the Office of the Secretary-General?  What is going to happen?

Spokesperson:  Well, as we have said, for the panel to complete its work, it needed to have access to the report, the two national commissions.  The panel now has, as you know, the first report from the Turkel Commission in Israel.  It already had the report from Turkey from September.  So the panel is obviously now studying both these reports and also, of course, additional information, to be able to complete this important mandate that the Secretary-General has given them.

Question:  Any deadlines or terms?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, this is an important piece of work that is being done on behalf of the Secretary-General, and obviously there is a lot of focus on that in the international community, and I know that the panel members are working to complete that as swiftly as they can, as carefully as they can.  Yes, Ali?

Question:  Yeah, will the Secretary-General congratulate the nominated Prime Minister in Lebanon or just…?  Usually, the norm, as I hear, every time that there is a new Prime Minister in the world, the Secretary-General would call and congratulate.

Spokesperson:  Well, as I was saying yesterday, one step at a time.  What we’ve said is that the Secretary-General would call for all parties to ensure that there is calm and that there is restraint on the streets and that the dialogue continues.  That’s what I can tell you.  Yes, Khaled?

Question:  I just want to have a follow-up on this.  And I have a different question, but a follow-up on the conversation between Mr. Ban Ki-moon and the designated Prime Minister.  Doesn’t Mr. Ban Ki-moon think that maybe contacting Mr. [Najib] Mikati will solve some issues over the court, and the trends of the new Government; he doesn’t see this as a necessary step?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I said to you yesterday, one step at a time, Khaled.  What I also said to you already yesterday about the Special Tribunal [for Lebanon] is that this is an independent body and that its work should not be politicized.

Question:  Okay.  I just had a question, I’m sorry, Martin, you told me yesterday you were closely following the situation in Egypt, and there were reports of four people who were killed and continuing restrictions on Facebook, Twitter — what’s the UN reaction on the situations there?

Spokesperson:  Well, you are right; we are monitoring events very closely indeed.  And I would anticipate that we’ll have something further to say a little bit later today.  Yes, Ozlem?

Question:  Thank you.  When I read the Secretary-General’s remarks in Geneva, I didn’t hear that they are going to have another meeting in March, because it was earlier stated that they were expected to have another meeting, the three of them, two leaders and himself.  Why didn’t he mention this?  And he also talks about making available his experts on technical aspects of the property issue, and there has not been much progress on the property issue, as it is one of the core issues.  I know that he is not here right now; first of all, I would like know, when is he coming back?  And would you like to give us some information about these issues from his remarks, or should we wait?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think what the Secretary-General said in Geneva was quite detailed, and I don’t really have anything to add beyond that.  He has been personally involved in this, as you have seen, in November and now today.  And he said that he will remain personally involved.  That’s a sign, not just of his own personal commitment, but of the United Nations commitment to this, to help as the two leaders from the two communities work to bridge the differences that they have.  That’s really where we are.

Question:  When is he coming back to New York?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General?  He will be back, if I am not mistaken, on 6 February.

Question:  Can I follow up?  Is the Secretary-General still with that confident belief that this is going to be a crucial year for the Cyprus negotiation, and does he think, after this meeting in Geneva, that it could be a political success for him and the United Nations this year?

Spokesperson:  The most important thing is what this process means for the people of Cyprus, and really, that’s where the focus should be.  And that’s why he is encouraging them to do more work.  He has recognized that the leaders have been able to work through repeated meetings to come closer together in some areas, but obviously they have some way to go in other areas.  And that’s why he is saying that more work needs to be done, particularly on some of these outstanding core issues, one of which Ozlem mentioned just now.

Question:  But he is still optimistic, like it was on the press conference?

Spokesperson:  Well, he said that this is an important process for the people of Cyprus, because they are the ones who stand to gain considerably from a solution to this long-standing problem.

Khaled, I can tell you, as I mentioned, that the UN is closely watching the evolving protests and tensions in Egypt and the broader region.  And that the Secretary-General urges all concerned to ensure that the situation in Egypt does not lead to further violence and calls on the authorities to see this as an opportunity to engage in addressing the legitimate concerns of the people.  And the UN will continue to monitor the situation in Egypt and in other parts of the region and stands ready to help.

Question:  Can I just follow up, please?  The Secretary-General usually has a very positive relation with the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak; they always talk about the peace process.  Would he bother to contact the authorities and deliver a statement?

Spokesperson:  Khaled, I have just carefully read out what we have to say at the moment.  Okay, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.

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