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

22 September 2011

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

22 September 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, and welcome to the briefing.

**Nuclear Safety

The Secretary-General opened the High-level Meeting on Nuclear Safety and Security this morning by saying that the nuclear accidents in Chernobyl 25 years ago and in Fukushima this year are a wake-up call for the world’s people.

After all, he said, the effects of nuclear accidents respect no borders.  To adequately safeguard our people, we must have strong international consensus and action.  We must have strong international safety standards.  The Secretary-General said that we cannot accept business as usual, and we all have a stake in getting it right.

He discussed the need for greater transparency and open accountability, for greater cooperation between international organizations and between Governments, and for strengthening the capacity of the relevant international organizations — particularly the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  We have his remarks in my office.  The meeting will be wrapping up shortly, and we may have more for you after that.

** Durban Declaration

The Secretary-General spoke at the General Assembly meeting commemorating the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.  He noted that we have come a long way in the past decade, with new laws enacted, new institutions pursuing justice and new initiatives promoting dialogue.  Yet we must acknowledge that intolerance has increased in many parts of the world, the Secretary-General said.  Our common commitment must be to focus on the real problems of racism and intolerance, he stressed.  His full remarks are available on our website.

**Security Council

The Security Council will hold a high-level meeting on diplomacy and conflict prevention at 3 this afternoon, at which the Secretary-General will speak.  Lebanese President Michel Sleiman will chair the meeting.  Another half a dozen Heads of State and Government will participate, as well as a number of Foreign Ministers.

**Secretary-General’s Remarks Today

And after his appearance in the Security Council, the Secretary-General will give remarks at a separate event on combating sexual violence against women, and he will also speak at an event commemorating the legacy of Dag Hammarskjöld.

**Press Conferences

A few press conferences:  At 2:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by Demetris Christofias, President of the Republic of Cyprus.  That’s here in this Auditorium.

And then tomorrow at 11:30 a.m., the Foreign Ministers of Mexico and Sweden will address press at the North Lawn stakeout.  They will be joined by Sergio Duarte, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, and Tibor Toth, the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

And at 2 p.m., here in this Auditorium, there will be a press conference by the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

And at 4 p.m., there will be a press conference by the Prime Minister of Nepal.

That’s what I have.  Questions, please.  Yes, Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I just want to clarify for the record.  Once the Palestinians submit their statehood application to the Secretary-General, the procedure is, the Secretary-General will then forward it and this will be to the Security Council, and then it’s up to the Security Council to send it back [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  The procedure is as follows, and in this concrete instance, as you know, President Abbas has made it clear that he will submit a membership application to the Secretary-General tomorrow, this Friday.  The Secretary‑General, on receipt of that application, reviews it from a technical point of view, and then refers, transmits, that application to the President of the Security Council.  It’s then — unless the Security Council decides otherwise — the President of the Security Council then calls for a committee to be established with one member from each of the Security Council members.  And they then would look at the application.  And it then sits firmly with the Council at that point.  That’s the running order, if you like.

Question:  Two follow-up questions on that.  Number one, when the Secretary-General reviews it for technicalities, can he at some point in time say “this application is not fully complete”, and ask to be changed and so forth?  And delayed, and when he sends to… yeah?

Spokesperson:  Well, the reason for a technical review is to ensure that any application, whether this one or another from some other entity, is fully compliant with the requirements for a membership application.  So it is not a rubber-stamping exercise, it’s due diligence.  But equally, as the provisional rules of procedure of the Security Council state, the Secretary-General will transmit any membership application immediately.  And so there is no reason or desire to hold up an application.  It must be reviewed technically, and then transmitted to the President of the Council.

Question:  Okay, and once it… and this is on the… once it is in the hands of the Security Council, can they, I mean, take their time, like it is being suggested in various newspaper reports that it can be delayed?  It can [inaudible] Security Council can hold that meeting and basically [inaudible] issue after two months, after a year or so, is that the… what…?

Spokesperson:  I think you’d have to ask the Council President or other Council members for their intended approach to that.  From a technical standpoint, as I say, the Secretary-General is obliged to transmit the application immediately, which, as I say, means in practice after a technical review.  And at that point, the President of the Council is duty-bound to, unless the Council decides otherwise, to pull together a committee that would comprise the 15 members; in other words, one from each of the Member States in the Council.  And what happens after that is very much in their hands.  And I would refer you to them.

Question:  And there have been precedents before that the application has taken sometimes [inaudible] or two months before the Security Council accepts, I mean, reviews the [inaudible]?  There are precedents in the past?  There are prece… I am asking you, are there any precedents in the past…?

Spokesperson:  I think, well, as you know, there are precedents for just about everything in this Organization if you dig deep enough and go back far enough.  I think in this particular case, it really is for the Member States in the Security Council to deliberate and for them also to tell you what course of action they plan to take.

Question:  And in the meeting with Secretary-General and the Prime Minister of which you sent out the note, readout, [inaudible] with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday, did they speak about like Israel [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Well, the…

Question:  That also, you know, the Palestinian President’s [inaudible] while Israeli deals?

Spokesperson:  To my knowledge they did not.  But, as I said, and as you will have seen, the readout is quite detailed, I believe, and was quite explicit in saying that the Secretary-General urged the Prime Minister to act with responsibility, wisdom and restraint towards the Palestinian approach to the United Nations.  And he emphasized the need for historic decisions on both sides at this critical moment.  And also, as you will have seen, he stressed the need for further measures to lift the closure of the Gaza Strip.  So I think that was quite a clear readout.  But to my knowledge, the topic that you refer to was not raised in that meeting.  Okay.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Yes, Matthew, I have a few questions.  On this…

Spokesperson:  I don’t doubt it.

Question:  Okay, so I wanted to… to… to… first thing has to do with, in Kosovo, with this whole border dispute, now the Kosovo police have detained, you know, 13 and counting Serb truckers in this dispute about the… the… the… the… who controls the border and the… the tax stamps.  And I am wondering, since UNMIK… I mean at… at various stakeouts certainly Russia and some other Council members say that UNMIK should take more of a role in this.  What have they been doing, as this seemed to be escalating into arrests and kind of a border fight?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think, as you know, the Secretary-General has repeatedly stressed the need for long-standing issues to be resolved through dialogue and in a peaceful manner.  And he has also urged patience and restraint to ensure stability on the ground.  And clearly that involves the work of our colleagues in the Mission there.

Question:  But does that mean… I just… he’s called, does that mean that Kosovo shouldn’t be arresting the truck drivers, or the truck drivers shouldn’t be driving across the border?

Spokesperson:  It means that there should be dialogue, and it means that there should be patience and restraint on both sides.

Question:  No driving, no arrests?

Spokesperson:  It means patience and restraint on both sides.

Question:  Okay, all right.  I wanted to ask you also on Darfur.  There are… there is… there are reports of Government-affiliated militias in the camps in Garsilla.  And I don’t… I see the UNAMID, you know, daily press release that they put out, but I don’t see any mention of it.  So I am wondering, one, is it something that they were aware of but don’t put in?  And two, I had asked you this yesterday, but it seems like one of the large rebel groups…?

Spokesperson:  Not yesterday.

Correspondent:  I sent an e-mail to you.

Spokesperson:  All right, okay, yesterday.

Question:  Yes.  And I wanted to… I just wanted… I really [inaudible] I asked this… it’s sort of one of the… the… the… the non-Doha rebel groups, SLM-Abdul Wahid Nour, has now said sort of across the board they don’t believe that Mr. Gambari is…

Spokesperson:  Yeah, you had our answer to that.  You had our answer to that.

Question:  You stand behind him?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  So I guess what I am wondering is then, is… is the standing behind him involving also not reporting Government abuse in refugee camps, or is… that’s not taking place?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, as you pointed out, we did answer the question that you sent, and let me check whether our colleagues in the mission there have any further details on this particular incident or incidents that you are referring to.

Question:  Could I… I wanted to ask a follow-up to one of Masood’s questions, which was…?

Spokesperson:  Please do.

Question:  …which is that… and it goes back to this… you, since last we were here and had this exchange, the Palestinians have made it clear they believe that if they get State Observer status they can join the [International Criminal Court]; it’s very straight forward.  And since this involves the filing with the treaty department under Patricia O’Brien, I want to again ask, is it possible — and yesterday I asked Mr. Nicolas Michel, who used to be the head of OLA and used to hold press conferences — is it possible to get her here before the end of this GA when this thing is handling?  I have heard that her position is that as head of OLA it’s inappropriate to do press conferences, and I just wonder, does the Secretary-General agree with that?  That this high and… high official with legal knowledge can be exempt from… from… from what her predecessor did and what other USGs do?

Spokesperson:  First of all, I am not exactly sure what a former Legal Counsel has to do with this.  The views of the former Legal Counsel play no role here.  That’s the first thing.  The second thing is that you know very well that whenever there is something to say to do with legal matters, then clearly we will impart that information.  If it’s appropriate at some point for Ms. O’Brien to brief on a particular topic, as she has done, for example, on the treaties, then that’s something that could be looked at.  But you know very well that if there are questions related to specific topics like the one you have raised, we can try to get the answers for you, okay?  It may not satisfy you, Matthew, but I think you will find that you receive regular briefings from many people who have different roles.  The role of Legal Counsel is to provide legal advice to the UN system and to the Secretary-General, as Legal Counsel for the Secretary-General and running the Department that deals with these various matters.  Whether or not someone briefs on any particular topic is very much for them to decide.  Okay?

Question:  Okay, all right.  I just wanted, and this is just… you may think this is a small thing, but in terms of just covering the… the… the general debate, I’ve heard, it’s not a personal complaint, because I’ve heard it from diplomats as well.  There seems to be a big problem with bandwidth for the WiFi; i.e. computers can’t… as right now, it doesn’t work here, but in the North Lawn Building it doesn’t work either.  And I want, I guess I wanted to know, it may be too late to fix it for this general debate, but what planning went into making sure that people could use, you know, reg… communications devices during the general debate to… to… cover it and… and communicate and everything else?  What… who is in charge of that?  Was it Mr. Choi, or Mr. Adlerstein, or… who is in charge of that?

Spokesperson:  Well, it doesn’t really matter for the purposes of this question who is in charge of it.  What’s important is if there is a problem, we try to fix it.  So, let me find out and see what the score it.  All right?  Okay.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  On this issue, I had — when you were not here, when you were on vacation — I talked to your Deputy about this, this skirmish at the border between India and Pakistan, where three Pakistani soldiers were killed.  And then there was the issue of graves, mass graves found, on which topic is now being raised and at another level, but I am just asking, when I asked him, he said that he is still awaiting the report from UNMOGIP, the UN Mission over there.  Has that report come in at all and…?

Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge, Masood.

Question:  Not [inaudible].  And on the graves issue there is no statement from the Secretary-General since [inaudible]?  He also had said that he going to look into it [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Not, again, not to my knowledge, Masood, no, I don’t think we have anything on that.

Okay.  All right, thank you.  Have a good afternoon.

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