|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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the briefing.
The Secretary-General is in San Marino, where he is taking part today in the investiture of the country’s two Heads of State, the Captains Regent. In a speech at the ceremony, the Secretary-General said that San Marino offered three universal lessons about democracy: that no one system is right for all countries; that democracy can always be improved; and that democracy allows individuals to engage with authorities to reach collective goals.
The Secretary-General said we are living through a pivotal moment in the global history of democracy. He said that in several parts of the world, we have seen alarming threats to hard-won gains in democratic governance. He said he was deeply disturbed by growing pressures and restrictions on civil society groups in some countries.
Yesterday, the Secretary-General met the outgoing Captains Regent and had a meeting with the Foreign Minister. You’ll see a readout on that meeting. Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will leave San Marino for Andorra. He will also visit a drug rehabilitation centre in Italy.
**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travel
From 2 to 4 April, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Geneva for meetings with senior UN officials. During his visit, he will meet with the Director General of the UN Office at Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization and the Chair of UN Water. On 4 April, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Madrid to join the Secretary-General at the Chief Executives Board for Coordination meeting (CEB). The Deputy Secretary-General will arrive back in New York on 7 April.
Mohamed ibn Chambas arrived in Khartoum today to take up the position of Head of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and Joint Chief Mediator. Upon arrival, Mr. Chambas said he was happy to take up his duties in Darfur at a very crucial time. Over the next few weeks, he will be meeting with a range of top Sudanese Government officials, Darfur authorities, ambassadors and United Nations representatives, as well as UNAMID leadership and staff.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
The UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) reports fighting in Kitchanga, North Kivu, this past Friday, between the Congolese army and the APCLS armed group. Approximately 11 APCLS combatants have reportedly been killed and one Congolese army soldier has been injured. MONUSCO peacekeepers in Kitchanga have provided protection to about 1,500 civilians. The situation is reported to be calm at present, but the UN Mission continues to monitor the situation and patrol the area.
And tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., Ambassador Eugène-Richard Gasana, the Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the United Nations and the President of the Security Council for the month of April, will be here to brief you on the Council’s programme of work for the month.
Questions, please? Hank?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Eduardo. Good day. I just had questions about the SG’s vision for Mali. You hear the number 11,200 for a peacekeeping force a lot, but beyond that I don’t know a lot of about what he foresees. First, isn’t it according to the Charter that there has to be some arrangement with the host country’s Government? And I had questions about that since the Malian Government seems to be… that was recently overthrown. And also, what did he foresee as far as the length of the mandate?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, Hank, before we continue, Mr. Feltman will be briefing the Security Council tomorrow on Mali, I suggest we wait to see what Mr. Feltman briefs and then we can answer questions afterwards. Yes?
Question: Yes, I was wondering on… I have a question on Sudan. I am wondering if the Secretary-General is following the situation. The President, Omer al-Bashir, just announced in the opening session of Parliament that he would be releasing all of the political prisoners in Sudan. Just wondering if the Secretary-General will be releasing a statement on this and if he is following the situation there.
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General is following the situation very closely in Sudan. As you know, we have a number of missions there and it is a very important country for United Nations operations. Right now, we have nothing to say on the release. Should we have anything to say later on, we will let you know. Pam?
Question: Hi, Eduardo. The Secretary-General made quite a few comments, very outraged, at the North Korean launch in February or test. Is there anything since then, since the most recent comments and is there anything you could get in his national capacity and as SG… in his Secretary-General capacity on North Korea?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General made a very, very strong statement on 7 March.
Deputy Spokesperson: And the situation in Korea continues to be the situation which he addressed, the situation in North Korea and in South Korea – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea. The rhetoric continues to be ratcheted up, the rhetoric continues to flow, and the Secretary-General’s message of 7 March stands.
Question: All right, can you see if you can get any comment just on the latest threats against…?
Deputy Spokesperson: If we have anything to say, we will let you know.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Question: [inaudible] M23’s… In DRC, M23’s political leadership has denounced as an act of war the approval of this intervention force by the Security Council last week. What is the Secretary-General’s reaction to that and how concerned is he that the lines between peacekeepers and this intervention force are going to be blurred?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General is very concerned by the situation in the Congo and believes the violence has to stop. And he is calling on all sides to end the violence and to resume normal life for the people in parts of the Congo that have been affected.
Question: So, if I can follow up, are you saying that he is still encouraging political dialogue and this intervention force is…?
Deputy Spokesperson: Oh, yes. The intervention force is there to underscore the fact that armed insurrection and violence will not be tolerated and that the situation has to be resolved by peaceful methods. Matthew?
Question: Sure, Eduardo. I wanted to ask you, it seems like last Monday the… the MONUSCO in… in the Congo gave a sort of… what was called a final ultimatum to the Congolese army to begin prosecuting the rapists of Minova, 126 rapes. The week is now expired and I am wondering what action has the UN taken.
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the week has not expired, it expires this evening at midnight, but I will see what we can get for you.
Question: Because if the Foreign Minister at the stakeout said basically we are already… we are already prosecuting, why is the UN making these threats, and you know, can you…?
Deputy Spokesperson: If we have anything to say… let me see. Well, what I can tell you is that, while a number of appropriate actions have reportedly been taken by the Congolese Government, MONUSCO is still waiting to receive official notification of these actions. Assurances have been received from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Tshibanda, during his visit to New York. MONUSCO has been in close contact with the Government and is expecting a response in the coming days. That’s what I have.
Question: And you will… will you then disclose what these actions at the UN find are… are sufficient on these rapes are?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, let’s see what they say, let’s see what they say.
Deputy Spokesperson: Hank?
Question: I was aware that Mr. Feltman will be speaking in the Council tomorrow, and I will be listening with bated breath, but my question was about Mr. Ban’s vision, some of which he outlined last week, which is…
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, Mr. Feltman is going to be presenting the Secretary-General’s report, so that’s… the Secretary-General’s vision will be outlined in that report tomorrow I suggest you wait to find out what it says. I am not going to pre-empt what the report may say. Anybody else? Sir?
Question: Yes, is there any time frame for the deployment of the intervention brigade? The Congolese Government seems to imply that they will be deployed at the end of April, which is very fast. Do you have any details on [inaudible]?
Deputy Spokesperson: For the Syrian…?
Question: No, for the intervention brigade in DRC.
Deputy Spokesperson: No, I don’t have a timetable for that yet. We’ll have to wait and see. I’ll speak with DPKO and see if we can get any further information on that.
Question: Yes, a follow-up on North Korea. Today, there are press reports that the regime has appointed a Prime Minister who is supposed to be moderate. Is there any reaction from the Secretary-General?
Deputy Spokesperson: No, we don’t comment on appointments and on elections. The Secretary-General’s statement of 7 March stands, and he is calling on all sides to reduce the rhetoric. He is calling on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to reach out and create confidence-building mechanisms with its neighbours in order to defuse the tensions on the peninsula and move forward towards a more peaceful way of doing things. Matthew? Last question.
Question: I want to ask you about Darfur and then also about your own Office’s highlights. It’s… it’s questions related. One is that the… the IDPs that were, it was reported, turned over by UNAMID to people who kidnapped them, I had asked about that last week and now over the weekend they have been released. But, the response that was put in… in the highlights of the… of the… of the briefing on Thursday was that the UN is investigating why they turned them over apparently without defending them from shooting.
Deputy Spokesperson: Yeah.
Question: So I wanted… one, I wanted to know, now that they have been released, is there any sort of… sort of limit by which you will give these findings of the investigation? And, two, I had to say, I noticed that on Thursday the things that were in the highlights weren’t actually said in this room, so I wanted to… just in order for my reason in looking at UN documents like highlights of briefings, is it normal to include things that weren’t said or should have…
might have been said or that… but in fact weren’t said? Or in the highlights… are they to be read as a document saying what actually happened in the briefing, or what you wish had happened?
Deputy Spokesperson: No, the document that reflects what actually happened in the meeting is the transcript.
Deputy Spokesperson: The highlights are the issues of the day that we either raised in the briefing, or because of a lack of time we did not raise in the briefing, but have decided is important enough to merit attention.
Question: Is there some way to distinguish between the two, just so people reading that document…?
Deputy Spokesperson: No.
Question: Why not?
Deputy Spokesperson: No, you read both.
Question: But I mean, it’s like… it’s like a highlight of a sports game. It’s a play that never happened; it’s different than when it didn’t take place…
Deputy Spokesperson: No, its not. Well, Matthew, we’ve been doing this from time immemorial. This is the way it works.
Question: Okay. Then can I ask you, when is the investiga… when… when is this investigation of the UN’s turning over of IDPs without firing a shot going to be completed?
Deputy Spokesperson: Matthew, when it is completed, you will know. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Have a good afternoon. Happy Monday to you.
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