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

8 April 2011

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

8 April 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.

Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the briefing.

**Guest/Stakeouts

My guest today is Edmond Mulet, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH.

I’ll turn over to Mr. Mulet in just a second.  I just wanted to give you a couple of other announcements.  As I think you know, Shimon Peres, the President of Israel, is going to be speaking to reporters shortly at the 2nd Floor stakeout in the North Lawn Building; that is after his meeting with the Secretary-General.

And then, Ad Melkert, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, will go to the Security Council stakeout after his briefing to the Council.

And I also understand that the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, is expected to brief the Security Council on Côte d’Ivoire later today.  And we will let you know as soon as we have the exact time for that meeting.  But Mr. Le Roy is likely to go to the Security Council stakeout after that briefing.

And then after Mr. Mulet has kindly briefed you and answered your questions, I will have a few other announcements for you and can take questions.  But with that, I pass the floor to you.  Very nice to see you again.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mulet:  Thank you.  Thank you very much, Martin, and good afternoon to all.  It is always a pleasure to be here with you.

[Briefing by Mr. Mulet issued separately.]

Spokesperson:  Just a couple of other announcements and I will be happy to take questions after that.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

In an effort to coordinate the international response on Libya, the Secretary-General will chair a meeting of concerned international and regional organizations to be held at the League of Arab States Headquarters in Cairo on Thursday, 14 April 2011.

The Secretary-General thanked the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Mr. Amr Moussa, for agreeing to provide the venue for the meeting.  Apart from Mr. Moussa, the leaders scheduled to participate in the meeting include:  Jean Ping, the Chairman of the Commission of the African Union; Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Conference; and Ms. Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

The objective of the meeting will be to exchange views and enhance coordination among the participating organizations in addressing the current crisis in Libya.

And also, next Tuesday in Doha, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, and the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Libya, Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, will represent the United Nations at the first meeting of the Libya Contact Group.  The delegation will also include representatives of the UN Development Programme and Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).  The Libya Contact Group was established at the London Conference on Libya on 31 March 2011.

** Israel

So, I also have a readout of the Secretary-General’s meeting with Mr. Shimon Peres, the President of the State of Israel.  The Secretary-General and President Peres discussed the worrying impasse in the Middle East peace process and the urgent need for a way forward.

The Secretary-General repeated his condemnation of militant rocket fire from Gaza, and expressed his serious concern about Palestinian civilian casualties in Israeli military operations.  He called for maximum restraint.  The Secretary-General and President Peres also discussed the Goldstone report and regional developments.

** Côte d’Ivoire

On Côte d’Ivoire, the Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) says that the human rights teams investigating reports of killings and other human rights violations in the west of the country have found more than a hundred bodies over the past 24 hours in three different towns.

In Duékoué, they saw 15 bodies, in addition to the 229 already found and buried, bringing the total number to 244 confirmed to have been killed during the incident on 28-29 March.  The human rights team also found around 40 corpses in Blolequin.  And in Guiglo, the team found more than 60 corpses.

The Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonović, met yesterday with President [Alassane] Ouattara and two of his ministers and discussed at length the issue of the killing of civilians.  Mr. Šimonović also spoke by phone with a senior aide of Laurent Gbagbo.

And I can tell you that Mr. Šimonović will be the guest at the noon briefing on Monday.

** Libya

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the sustained hostilities in Libya continue to impede intervention by the humanitarian community to deliver lifesaving aid and evacuate stranded people.  The United Nations continues to call for an immediate temporary cessation of hostilities to allow access for humanitarian assistance.

The World Food Programme-chartered vessel that was able to dock yesterday at the port in Misratah has unloaded supplies that will cover urgent medical needs for 50,000 people for a month.  More than 600 metric tons of food — enough to feed more than 40,000 people for a month — is also on board the ship and will be distributed in the coming days.

And meanwhile, reports indicate an urgent need for medical supplies and personnel, potable water, food and other supplies for the people in Misratah, Al-Brega, Az-Zantan and surrounding areas.

** Iraq

As I mentioned, Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, has been briefing the Security Council, and he told them that, while notable progress had been made in Iraq in recent months, many challenges remain.

While Iraq has made strides in its democratic transition in recent years, he said, the people of Iraq are now demanding the dividends that were promised by their leaders. He noted the protests in Iraq since 25 February, which have brought people out onto the streets demanding progress in employment, basic services and accountability.  Mr. Melkert said that Iraqi officials are taking these issues seriously.

The Special Representative added that Iraq’s stability is still under pressure.  He noted the continued targeting of various communities, as well as terror attacks, and said that an average of 25 security incidents a day were reported over the past month, although the average number of incidents is declining.

**Israel/Palestine

As mentioned in the readout from the meeting with President Shimon Peres, the Secretary-General is concerned about escalating violence in Gaza and southern Israel.

And we put out a statement last night in which he condemned the recent rocket fire from Palestinian militants, which hit a school bus and injured two Israeli civilians yesterday.  And he calls for an immediate end to rocket fire.  And as I also mentioned, the Secretary-General is also concerned about reports of civilian casualties from Israeli operations in Gaza and calls for maximum restraint.

**AIDS

This morning, the Secretary-General today highlighted the role that civil society can play to boost efforts to fight HIV and AIDS.

Speaking at a civil society hearing on the disease, he pledged to take action and continue to personally urge government officials to bring us closer to our ultimate goals:  no new infections; no stigma or discrimination; and no AIDS-related deaths.  Today’s hearing is part of the preparatory process for the High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS, which will be held this June.

** Somalia

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is reporting that fighting in south and central Somalia has displaced 33,000 civilians since February, about half of them from the capital, Mogadishu.  Many of the newly displaced people are in desperate need of assistance, with temporary shelters in Mogadishu already housing another 372,000 people.  UNHCR says it is monitoring the situation in the affected regions, where fighting continues intermittently between Government forces and Al-Shabaab militants.  Meanwhile, the number of Somalis fleeing into Kenya has also gone up, with more than 31,000 registered new arrivals so far this year.

** Rugby World Cup

On Monday, from 9:40 until 11 a.m., at the Main Gallery in the Visitors’ Lobby, in the General Assembly Building, the Permanent Mission of New Zealand — in collaboration with the Department of Public Information — will have a ceremony for the Rugby World Cup [the Webb Ellis Cup].  To mark its trip to the United States, the Cup will make stops at various major New York City landmarks.  And the Mission of New Zealand is sponsoring a two-hour UN tour of the Cup and a brief ceremony.

**Press Conferences

And then as I mentioned, on Monday, Ivan Šimonović, the Assistant Secretary-General of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, will join me at the Noon Briefing, to talk about his visit to Côte d’Ivoire and the human rights situation there.

So, that’s what I have.  I am happy to take questions.  Yes, please?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  On Côte d’Ivoire, I was wondering about the negotiation with Laurent Gbagbo.  Are these negotiations still going on at the moment?  And is there any UN official attending these negotiations, because we get from UN sources that past negotiations in the last few days were taking place in the French Embassy, with no UN official present.  So what do you have on that?

Spokesperson:  As I have said to you repeatedly, discussions have been going on in recent days.  I do not have an update for recent hours.  As I mentioned, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, will be briefing the Security Council later today; this afternoon, as I understand it.  And then he will be going to the stakeout after that.  And I am sure he will be able to give you an update at that point.

Question:  Martin, I have a follow-up on that.  I understand all these negotiations have taken place with Mr. Gbagbo by telephone.  Nobody has been present.  He is in the basement and he has been talking by telephone with Mr. Choi [Young-jin] and with the French officials.  The Defence Minister has been at the Embassy; the French…  But Mr. Gbagbo has never left his palace and nobody has ever gone in to talk to him.  Can you confirm that?  He is communicating by telephone.

Spokesperson:  What’s your point?

Question:  My point is, the question was, was anybody present with him at these negotiations?  It’s a question — my point:  have these negotiations that the UN has participated in only been by telephone?

Spokesperson:  As I have said, there have been discussions; I haven’t said at any point how those discussions have been taking place.  And as I also just said, Mr. Le Roy will be briefing the Council; and I am sure that if he has anything further on that he will be able to…

Question:  I do apologize for sitting too far in the back; I am asking you if he has spoken by telephone?  The negotiation has been done by telephone.

Spokesperson:  I heard what you said, and I answered as I wish to answer:  Mr. Le Roy will be going to the stakeout this afternoon.  Yes, Evelyn?  Evelyn had a question and then I will come to you, Matthew.

Question:  Are we ever going to get a clue who is responsible for these massacres?  Because if we get, if the UN doesn’t name and shame, soon impunity continues and the massacres continue.

Spokesperson:  I think Ms. [Valerie] Amos was quite clear about that yesterday:  that she heard different versions and there are the differing accounts.  That’s precisely why there is the human rights team there to try to gather evidence and information.  And as that information comes to light, we are making it public.  So that’s the first thing.  The second thing is that Mr. Šimonović will be here on Monday and may have some more details to give you.  But as we’ve also said, accountability is crucial, of course.  There must be no impunity.  But there also needs to be a clear process to this, to try to establish the truth.  There is little point in throwing around accusations without first establishing the facts and then following a process.  That’s entirely how it should work.

Question:  I know, but if the process takes too long; it defeats the purpose of trying to stop the massacres.

Spokesperson:  Well, as I think you, as you have also heard, the Secretary-General spoke with President Ouattara about this topic; Mr. Šimonović has done so yesterday, and he also spoke by telephone with a senior aide to Laurent Gbagbo.  So I think we have repeatedly said how seriously we take this.  And we have addressed it repeatedly to explain what we are doing to try to protect civilians and to uncover the truth about what happened in various incidents in the west of the country in particular.  Yes, Masood; then Matthew.

Question:  Yeah, I am going to ask a question about the Secretary-General’s meeting with the President of Israel, unless you want to speak about Ivory Coast first?

Spokesperson:  Okay, please, okay, Matthew, please?

Question:  I just want to ask you about Côte d’Ivoire and Western Sahara, but I can do the Western Sahara after this.  But on Côte d’Ivoire, two things:  one is — and this is, I know that you’re saying Le Roy, but this is, I think, a Secretary-General question — President Ouattara has said that he intends to, quote, “starve out”, i.e., blockade the residence of Gbagbo so that no water or food goes in and so then he has to come out.  And I just wondered what is, not Mr. Le Roy or Mr. Choi Young-jin, what’s the Secretary-General, what’s his position on that?  Does he…  It seems like…  Go ahead.

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, it is in the title that Alain Le Roy is Under-Secretary-General reporting to the Secretary-General.  He is in charge of peacekeeping operations.  And what is happening with the Mission in Côte d’Ivoire, he will be briefing the Council and after that, I am sure he will be happy to speak to you, including on that topic, if he has an update.  On Western Sahara, you can ask the question if you wish, but I won’t have anything further to say beyond what I said yesterday.  So, you might not wish to bother…

Question:  No, I do want to ask it.  You can’t say in advance you don’t have [inaudible]…

Question:  Two questions:  On this meeting with the President of Israel, did the Secretary-General, they talked about lowering tensions and about the situation, about firing of rockets from Gaza into Israeli areas and part and so forth; but did they also talk about 10,000 to 12,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails?  And did he ask the President of Israel to release them or at least give a timeline for that?

Spokesperson:  The readout I have is the information I have for you.  I wasn’t in the meeting, so I can’t tell you at this point.

Question:  Now on the situation in Yemen and Bahrain.  Yemen, as you know, there is a report that yesterday 100 people, but now it is confirmed that 100 people were killed in the last weeks, riots and so forth.  And that the situation now is becoming worse.  And similarly in Bahrain.  When it comes to Friday, the situation gets back…  Where, do you have any information about Yemen as yet; as to what is happening?

Spokesperson:  No, not any immediate update on what’s happened today; no, I do not.  And simply to reiterate, as you know, the Secretary-General spoke to the President of Yemen earlier this week,  He has also as you know, spoken to the King of Bahrain — in both cases really speaking very clearly about the need for maximum restraint and to ensure that those who wish to demonstrate can do so peacefully.  He has spoken out clearly in those conversations about the reported excessive use of force.  So that is what I have.  I don’t have any update on what has happened in the region today.

Question:  Yes, one more question about Libya.  On Libya, about this NATO strike which killed about several civilians.  Now, does the Secretary-General have an update as to what really happened?  How did NATO strike these people, and has NATO given to the Secretary-General of the United Nations an answer on…?

Spokesperson:  No, this is something for NATO to speak about; and I think they have.  Our major concern is, at the moment, the humanitarian situation; and that is obviously primarily focused on Misratah, but is not limited to Misratah.  There are concerns for other cities and towns, as well.  And as I mentioned, the WFP-chartered vessel has been able to dock in Misratah, so that supplies can be brought in there.  But there is a lot more that needs to be done in this respect.  That’s what I have.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, another Côte d’Ivoire question, and then I am going to ask what I had intended to ask you.  But on Côte d’Ivoire, [inaudible] press has gotten and published some documents about Licorne, writing to the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire about alleged violations of the arms embargo by Gbagbo, et cetera.  And what I am wondering is what, the question has come up is how close, how would you describe the coordination between UNOCI and Licorne?  Is it limited to military actions?  Does UNOCI receive letters from other Member States or embassies in Ivory Coast about alleged violations?  And can you just, can we just be clear on what, I have heard that Licorne attends meetings in UNOCI on a variety of topics, not necessarily limited to military.  Is there some way to get an indication of what that relationship is?

Spokesperson:  Again, that’s something that you can ask Mr. Le Roy.  But as a general principle, I am not going to respond to reports about leaked documents.  What’s your question on Western Sahara?

Question:  Sure, there are actually two of them.  One is, and I don’t know how you can know in advance you wouldn’t answer this one, but there is a hunger striker known as Mohammad Hallab, who has been on a hunger strike more than a month, Saharawi… you know, from Western Sahara.  And I am just wondering whether anyone in the UN system is aware of that and has any comment, has tried in any way to address that situation?

Spokesperson:  I am not going to answer it because I don’t have any information on that; I will look into it.

Question:  The other one is, and this, and I mean, I’m going to try and do this, an article has appeared in the State media of Morocco, saying that Morocco lobbied at the highest levels of the Secretariat for the statement that you read yesterday to have the leak of documents condemned unequivocally.  And what I want to ask you about is this:  you called it an internal working document.  But they are saying that it was leaked by a Security Council member.  So, I want to know, forget, I understand, I am not expecting you to predict what will happen on Monday with the report.  But how are these reports produced?  I just want to ask you, does “internal” mean internal to the UN system or are these documents shared with either the parties or the Security Council members?

Spokesperson:  As I said, I don’t have anything to add to what I said yesterday, which is that this document is not a final report and it has not been endorsed by the Secretary-General, and, therefore, it has no status.  I don’t have anything to add to that.  I don’t have anything to add to that, Matthew, and I think that you have made your point.  Joe, what’s your question?

Question:  Martin, at the stakeout with President Peres just now, there was a question raised about whether the Secretary-General still considers Gaza to be occupied by Israel.  And I don’t know the answer, so I am asking you.  Does he consider it still to be occupied by Israel?

Spokesperson:  Gaza to be occupied by Israel?

Question:  Yes.

Spokesperson:  I will need to come back to you on that, because I don’t quite understand what the point of that is.

Question:  Well the reporter asked, said that the Secretary-General told the President that the Secretary-General still considers it to be occupied territory.

Spokesperson:  The reporter?

Question:  A reporter.

Spokesperson:  I think this is better handled after the briefing.

Question:  No, no, no, he made a statement and President Peres said that the Secretary-General hadn’t told him that.  But I want to know whether the Secretary-General considers it occupied territory; Gaza?

Spokesperson:  Well, I am not quite sure how the reporter knows this, given that this was a meeting behind closed doors.  So, let’s try to find out afterwards.

Question:  The general principle about the UN’s position…

Spokesperson:  I’ll try to find out afterwards, Joe, I’ll try to find out afterwards.  This is the last question.

Question:  Yeah, thank you, Martin.  Last week, the Secretary-General issued a statement on the Nigerian elections, which were later on postponed.  So I wanted to know whether he has any updated views about the postponement of the Nigerian general election.  And also I’d like to know what is, if any, the role of the UN in providing electoral assistance to Nigeria.  Has it been requested, or has the UN offered any form of electoral assistance to Nigeria for these elections?

Spokesperson:  On the first, no update.  On the second, I will ask my colleagues in the Department of Political Affairs and I am sure that, given that they have a unit that deals with electoral assistance, if they have anything, I am sure they will be pleased to help me and then to help you.

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.