|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.
Good afternoon, everyone.
**Guests at Noon Briefing
We are very pleased to have with us today, as the guests at the noon briefing, Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy, and Anthony Banbury, the Assistant Secretary-General for the Department of Field Support, and they will update you on a range of peacekeeping issues. Mr. Le Roy?
[Press conference by Mr. Le Roy and Mr. Banbury issued separately.]
Just a couple of other items for you.
**Secretary-General in Czech Republic
The Secretary-General has arrived in Prague at the start of his four-country visit to Eastern and Central Europe.
This morning, he met President Václav Klaus, whom he briefed on recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly Libya and Egypt. The Secretary-General underscored the important role that the European Union can play, particularly in socio-economic development. And we have the full readout in our office.
The Secretary-General will meet Foreign Minister Klaus Schwarzenberg later today. The Secretary-General also met representatives of non-governmental organizations. He also told them that their country's experience with political transition meant it was well placed to help those countries which are undergoing political change in the Middle East and North Africa.
** Côte d’Ivoire
On Côte d'Ivoire, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reports that, with the security situation apparently calming in western Côte d’Ivoire, its staff is reporting large groups of internally displaced people living in alarming humanitarian conditions.
An estimated 200,000 people in western Côte d’Ivoire have been displaced by post-election violence over the past four months, the agency says.
Many of the displaced told UNHCR staff they are waiting to see security restored in their areas of origin so that they can return home. Some displaced people are hoping to be relocated to sites with more space and humanitarian aid. Others are asking for help to rebuild their damaged homes. The refugee agency is working to increase its presence in western Côte d’Ivoire to effectively respond to those needs.
On Iraq, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, condemned an Iraqi military operation in a camp housing an Iranian exile group that left at least 34 people dead and dozens injured. That’s in a press release issued today. Ms. Pillay said that there must be an independent inquiry, and called on Governments to consider resettlement to third countries as a matter of urgency.
The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities held a dinner meeting yesterday in Nicosia. Following the talks, Alexander Downer, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, told reporters that it was a very “warm” occasion. They discussed the way forward for the next few months, as well as the meeting with the Secretary-General, scheduled in June.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has convicted two Croatian generals of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war. Ante Gotovina was sentenced to 24 years in prison while Mladen Markač will serve an 18-year sentence. And there’s more information available on the Tribunal’s website.
**Press Conferences Monday
As for press conferences, on Monday, at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference with Firdaus Kharas, the Chairman of Chocolate Moose Media and Culture Shift, to launch a new animated campaign to prevent domestic violence and abuse. And this event is being sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Canada.
And at 1 p.m., there will be a press conference with Eric Calais, a United Nations Development Programme seismologist, to discuss risk reduction plans to be implemented with the Government of Haiti, as well as key challenges and upcoming threats faced by the country and its neighbours.
And that’s it from me. Are there any questions? Yes, Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Question: There is a report that Iran has sent a letter to the Secretary-General, asking him to ask the Security Council to take notice of the situation in Bahrain. Has the Secretary-General received that letter?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t at this point have formal confirmation that the letter has been received. I have been checking; if I get it I’ll certainly let you know. Yes?
[The Acting Deputy Spokesperson later added, after checking once more, that the letter has not yet been received.]
Question: In the last week, Mexican authorities have been finding corpses of migrants that cross Mexico. So far, they have found around 150 bodies of Mexican nationals and people from other countries in Latin America. Are you aware of this? Do you think the Secretary-General is going to issue a statement regarding this issue? And in that sense, what are the general criteria of the Secretary-General in these international tragedies? I mean, when does he decide to issue a statement and when he doesn’t?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: The general rule is that we do issue a statement once we have considered the issue and believe that there is some useful contribution the Secretary-General can make by speaking out on the topic. And we’ll have to see whether this is one such case. Certainly, the Secretary-General is aware of the reports, and we’re looking into the matter further. Yes?
Question: There was a report from Capitol Hill today that they’re cutting peacekeeping dues by $377 million. Do you have any reaction to that? The Secretary-General’s reaction to that?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Yeah. The United Nations first of all does not comment on ongoing legislative processes. We will need to assess the impact, if any, once the terms of the resolution become clearer. Certainly, the United Nations is fully conscious of all that the international community is going through in this age of austerity, and we are aware that the United Nations is being asked to do more with less. The Secretary-General, as you know, has made clear that he intends to continue to pursue a broad reform effort to strengthen the UN’s ability to deliver on the ground, while maintaining budget discipline and ensuring full accountability. The Secretary-General has also instructed his advisers to come up with appropriate plans to reduce the budget by 3 per cent. At the same time, the UN continues to need robust financial support from the Member States, including the United States.
With that, I wish you all a good afternoon. Have a good weekend.
* *** *