|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. And by everyone, I mean the three of you!
B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Security Council this morning on the situation in Libya, including the latest fighting. He said the initiative in recent days had been with the opposition forces.
Mr. Pascoe also discussed the work of the Special Envoy for Libya, Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, who, he says, plans to visit Libya again in the near future and then come to New York to brief the Security Council. He is trying to narrow the difference between the two parties and start indirect talks. The Special Envoy has met the parties repeatedly and is also in frequent telephone contact with both of them.
On the humanitarian front, Mr. Pascoe said that, as the opposition takes control of some of the towns and cities, there are reports of some migrant workers returning to those areas.
While an agreement is still far from being concluded, he added, the beginning of a negotiation process is now under way. And we have his remarks available in our Office.
The International Criminal Court today issued an arrest warrant for Muammar al-Qadhafi for crimes against humanity allegedly committed across Libya.
The Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber also issued arrest warrants for one of Mr. Qadhafi’s sons and the head of the country’s intelligence forces.
The Chamber found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the three suspects’ arrests are necessary to prevent them from using their powers to continue committing crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction.
And there is more information on the Court’s website.
The Security Council this morning adopted a resolution establishing, for a period of six months, the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). The Security Force shall comprise a maximum of 4,200 military personnel, 50 police, and appropriate civilian support.
That force is being established following the Agreement between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement on Temporary Arrangements for the Administration and Security of the Abyei Area.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the information it has received indicates continued air strikes and artillery shelling by the Sudanese Armed Forces in South Kordofan. Due to the security situation, the Office adds, it is difficult to verify reports or properly assess the overall impact of the ongoing military operations on civilians.
According to estimates by the Sudanese Red Crescent Society, the Humanitarian Aid Commission, and UN agencies, at least 73,000 people have been displaced throughout the central and eastern parts of South Kordofan due to fighting.
The World Food Programme and its local partners have distributed food to 42,000 vulnerable people in the area and it is prioritizing distributions to locations that are expected to be inaccessible when the rainy season starts.
**Food and Agriculture Organization
José Graziano da Silva of Brazil has been elected as the new Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). And he will succeed Jacques Diouf of Senegal.
Since 2006, Mr. Graziano da Silva has served as FAO’s Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Food and Agriculture Organization says that in Brazil, he helped to design and implement the “Zero Hunger” plan, which helped lift 24 million people out of extreme poverty in five years.
Hearings began today in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in the trial of the four most senior living members of the Khmer Rouge.
They are charged with crimes against humanity, genocide, homicide and torture, among other offences.
And you’ll recall that the Courts issued their first verdict last July, finding the former head of the Tuol Sleng detention camp guilty of crimes against humanity.
For press conferences, tomorrow at 3 p.m., there will be a press conference on the Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation. And speakers will include Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
That’s it from me. Yes, Erol?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Farhan, does the Secretary-General think that… how concerned is he actually on these flotilla preparations that are moving apparently to Gaza from Greece, since we know that previous events were very bloody, et cetera? So what is his opinion and what he has to say on that?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as you are aware, the Secretary-General did speak with a number of leaders of States around the region; and he has tried to make clear that what he wants to make sure is that no one takes actions that can help escalate tensions in the region at this particular time. Certainly, what we have also done is we have encouraged all of those who want aid to get into Gaza to use the established aid routes, and we are doing as much as we can to make sure that that aid, as much aid as possible, can get into Gaza through the established channels.
Question: A follow-up on that? Isn’t that some kind of appeasement to those who are having a blockade against Gaza for almost four years now, over four years? And why should a peaceful flotilla be provocation or escalation in tension? If the goods are there, inspected and everybody knows that these are peaceful people, no weapons on board?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: The simple fact is that, regarding aid, there are established ways of getting aid in; they have proven to work. We would like them to work better; we would like Israel to let more aid in. The Secretary-General, as you know, has been in constant contact with the Israelis, including as recently as last week, trying to do what he can to make sure that aid gets in. And we have obtained some successes there, and we continue to implore for all the parties, including those who want to see a peaceful resolution on this, to go about that way while we are on our side also working with Israel to see whether there can be a more free and open access into and out of Gaza.
Question: Follow-up on that? At the current rates of access, it is estimated that 75 years it will take, for the Gazans to rebuild what Israel has destroyed, what Israel has destroyed in the last two years.
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: As you know, the UN itself is the source of a lot of information of the problems that we still face regarding the checkpoints, regarding the closures. We have been talking repeatedly and filing reports on the ground repeatedly about the economic impact of these closures and we are working on our side and within the Quartet to try and bring that policy to an end. And we are hopeful that we can improve the situation and that, like I said, that the established channels can be made to work. Yes?
Question: A follow-up on the previous answers that you offered: Actually do you think that, can you consider actually that these talks with the Secretary-General with Israeli officials produced somehow that the Israelis are not going to go after the journalists who are on flotilla, actually? Can you claim that or what?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Certainly, in this case, as in all others, we want to make sure that the rights of the media and the rights of people to free expression are expected. Beyond that, I wouldn’t have anything to say about that. It’s hypothetical at this point. As you know, the flotillas have not arrived in the area yet. Yes?
Question: In Israel, the Foreign Press Association has accused Israeli authorities of threatening the journalists and undermining all the journalists’ organization by telling them not to cover the flotilla and so forth, and that protest has been lodged, not anywhere else, but in Israel itself. So, what is your reaction? Now, the other thing was that this flotilla, most of the people who are joining in from New York, as I attended the press conference last week, are the American Jewry. They said there will be no, what Israel fears, arms and ammunition to be shipped in these flotillas. So, why is Israel threatening them; and what has the Secretary-General done to tell Israel not to threaten the flotilla?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, first of all regarding what the Secretary-General has done, I’d refer you to the readout that we put out last week of his phone call with [Israeli Defense Minister] Ehud Barak, in which the subject of the flotilla did come up. And of course that is part and parcel of his efforts with a range of leaders to deal with the situation peacefully. Regarding why Israel is taking this sort of action, you’d have to ask the Israelis. It is not my place to say. Regarding your question about freedom of expression, as I told Erol just a second or two ago, as in all such cases, we hope and trust that freedom of opinion and the freedom of the media to go about its work will be respected. Yes, Iftikhar?
Question: Farhan, over the weekend, the Secretary-General issued a statement marking the fifth anniversary of detention of an Israeli man who was kidnapped. Will this be a precedent for other individuals in similar situations, especially those who were taken hostage because they demanded the UN-mandated right of self-determination, like those activists in Kashmir?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I think that is a bit of a stretch. I don’t think that these cases need to be lumped together. And I think the statement that we put out concerning Gilad Shalit speaks for itself.
Question: But there are people kidnapped in Indian-occupied Kashmir who are demanding the UN-mandated right of self-determination, and the Secretary-General has not spoken out for them.
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I think each case needs to be taken on its own merits and we would need to do that for each one individually. Yes?
Question: Sure, I wanted to ask you on this resolution that was passed on Abyei this morning. There is no human rights monitoring component in the peacekeeping mission, so the UK Deputy Permanent Representative said that it will be up to the Secretary-General to report on human rights and to somehow make sure that he can report on it. So, I wanted to know what steps is the Secretariat going to take to ensure that it will in this six-month period be able to report on human rights in Abyei?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, regarding that, if you look at the resolution itself, this resolution that was just passed over the last hour, says — and this is an operative paragraph — it “requests the Secretary-General to ensure that effective human rights monitoring is carried out and the results included in his report to the Council”. So we will follow up on that, and we will report on how effective human rights monitoring is to be carried out in the reports to the Council in accordance with this resolution.
Question: Will that be the existing UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan] human rights monitoring? How will it actually be done?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Like I said, the way in which the human rights monitoring will be done will be reported to the Security Council; we’ll let you know at that point. Yes?
Question: Do you have anything to say about this, the Israelis vandalizing cemeteries, Islamic cemeteries in Jerusalem; destroying everything, throwing away the old corpses and trying to change the place, because this happened yesterday at dawn, they sent some bulldozers and they ruined the cemetery.
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: No, I don’t. We’d have to check on these reports and verify them first before we would react. Yes?
Question: Sure, I wanted to ask, there is this Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) report has come out about the hiring practices under Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, saying that it is opaque, saying that the Secretariat refused to provide documents to JIU to conduct its work; urging Member States to actually get these documents, and I wonder, I am sure you have seen the report — what is the Secretariat’s response, particularly to the idea that it wouldn’t provide information to the Joint Inspection Unit?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, first of all, yes, we are aware of the Joint Inspection Unit report. I believe there is work being done on a reply. Once we have a reply for the report of the Joint Inspection Unit, we will let you know what that information contains. Yes?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. I have a report, message this morning from the organization UN Watch in Geneva about an international conference on global fight against terrorism in Tehran, which has a purported message from the Secretary-General — I am not vouching for the English on this — this is a reproduction from the conference’s website; it says: “In a written message to international conference on fight against terrorism in Tehran, UN Secretary emphasized right against terrorism is a great responsibility for all nations and Governments.” My question to you is…
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: You mean “fight”, not “right” against terrorism.
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Fight against terrorism; not right against terrorism.
Question: It said “fight”, I am reading… As I said, I am not vouching for the English. Did the Secretary-General make such a statement? In fact, did he say — I am sure he has said something like that any number of times, did he make this, send this particular statement directly on the occasion of this conference?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Yes. In fact there is a message that was delivered on his behalf. Obviously, the Secretary-General did not deliver it first-hand; but a message has been delivered on his behalf. We are getting the text, and we’ll put that out in fact this afternoon. As you know, the Secretary-General believes that all nations, all peoples are affected by terrorism; and that it is imperative that we involved as many States, as many peoples as possible in the fight against terrorism. Yes?
Question: Some, maybe 10, days ago I think now I had asked Martin [Nesirky] about this fighting between the Government of Myanmar and the Kachin rebels. It’s continued and various Governments have now spoken out and called for forbearance by the Government. I just wonder, has there been on that or the more recent bombings in Myanmar, has there been any response by the Special Envoy and Good Offices of Mr. Vijay Nambiar to these events in Myanmar?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Yeah, we are aware of the reports and we are studying them. Certainly, when we have a response to these latest reports we will put that out. We don’t have it at present. And with that, good afternoon.
* *** *