22 June 2010
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.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Sri Lanka

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General on Sri Lanka.

The Secretary-General has appointed a Panel of Experts that will advise him on the issue of accountability with regard to any alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka.  Its members are Mr. Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia — the Chair; Ms. Yasmin Sooka of South Africa; and Mr. Steven Ratner of the United States.

The Panel will advise the Secretary-General on the implementation of the commitment on human rights accountability made in the Joint Statement issued by President Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka and the Secretary-General during the latter’s visit to Sri Lanka in May 2009.  It will look into the modalities, applicable international standards and comparative experience with regard to accountability processes, taking into account the nature and scope of any alleged violations in Sri Lanka. It will be available as a resource to Sri Lankan authorities should they wish to avail themselves of its expertise in implementing the commitment.

In the conduct of its mandate, the Panel hopes to cooperate with concerned officials in Sri Lanka. It is expected to complete its advisory responsibilities within four months of the commencement of its work.

The Secretary-General remains convinced that accountability is an essential foundation for durable peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Through the Panel the Secretary-General expects to enable the United Nations to make a constructive contribution in this regard.  

**Secretary-General on Peacekeeping

The Secretary-General spoke this morning at a General Assembly debate marking the tenth anniversary of the Brahimi Report, which the Secretary-General called “a milestone in the evolution of United Nations peacekeeping operations”.

He said that, thanks to the reforms proposed by the panel, UN peacekeeping has been able to grow, incorporate the lessons learned from those experiences, and continue to serve as a flagship UN activity and a mission of hope for people caught in armed conflict.  But he added that we need to continue to strengthen the peacekeeping machinery.

The Secretary-General said that he is encouraged that different committees of the General Assembly have expressed general support for the proposals that are part of the New Horizons agenda to reform peacekeeping.  He said that peacekeeping has been a unique and uniquely successful experiment, but there is a perpetual need to sharpen our tools.  And we have his remarks in my office.

And a reminder that at 1 p.m. today, at the press stakeout area in the North Lawn Building, you will have the General Assembly President, Ali Abdussalam Treki; the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy; the former President of Ghana John Agyekum Kufuor; and the former President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari.  And they will be there to speak with you about the General Assembly’s Thematic Debate on Peacekeeping.

**Security Council

The Security Council’s mission to Afghanistan held a series of meetings in Kabul today, on its first full day since arriving in the country.

The 15-member delegation had a two-hour meeting with President Hamid Karzai and senior members of the Government, at the Presidential Palace, exchanging views on the current situation in Afghanistan.

In the afternoon, Security Council members met with members of Afghan civil society, in particular members of the Afghan Women's Network, human rights defenders and humanitarian workers and members of Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission.  The delegation was also briefed by the head of the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Staffan de Mistura.


The Security Council President issued a [press] statement today, in which the members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the attacks on UN-African Union peacekeepers in Darfur on 21 June, which resulted in the deaths of three Rwandan soldiers and in which another was seriously wounded.

The members of the Security Council expressed their condolences to the families of those killed in the attacks, as well as to the Government of Rwanda.  They encouraged the Government of Sudan to ensure that all the perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice and stressed that there must be an end to impunity for those that attack peacekeepers.

**Kyrgyzstan — Humanitarian Update

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that providing aid for displaced people in Kyrgyzstan has been difficult, and that is because of the tense security situation on the ground — where there are reports of barricades still up in the city of Osh and Government troops trying to clear the streets have been met with resistance.

Thirty airplanes carrying aid from the United Nations or other organizations have arrived in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan since the start of the crisis, and the aid they carried is being distributed.  OCHA says that in the past two days, more than seven-and-a-half thousand people have returned to Jalal-abad province, where the situation was a bit less tense than in Osh.

The authorities in Uzbekistan have been helping the UN refugee agency hand out relief items; they’ve also told the refugee agency that, in addition to Andijan, there are more than 50 other locations hosting refugees along the border.  And the UN refugee agency says that from its meetings with the refugees, it’s clear that many are struggling to deal with the family separations involved in fleeing the recent violence.  And we have more on that in my office.


Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), told the Agency’s Advisory Committee in Cairo that, four years into the blockade of Gaza, every Gazan is affected by poverty, unemployment and crippled public services, causing human misery on a massive scale.

He expressed the hope that world leaders will now match their words with the political determination required to end the blockade of Gaza, adding that it will be crucial that we closely follow the measures recently announced by the Israeli Government.  Grandi said that nothing short of the free two-way flow of people, commercial and humanitarian goods, and currency, will generate a significant reversal of Gaza’s economy.  His remarks to the Advisory Committee are available online.

**UNODC — 2010 World Drug Report

A quick announcement that tomorrow, the UN Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) will release its 2010 World Drug Report.  The UNODC Executive Director, Antonio Maria Costa, will release the report in Washington, D.C., with the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Director of the Federal Drugs Control Service of the Russian Federation.  And Mr. Costa will be available for interviews in New York on Thursday.

**UNDP — Nepal

The United Nations Development Programme is publishing a study today on its work in Nepal providing access to clean energy to the poor living in remote rural areas.  Among the key findings of the report is the crucial role of large-scale up-front capacity development, and the contribution that replicating this work elsewhere could make to accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

UNDP will provide a briefing to journalists here at 3 p.m. today on the report.  Kiran Man Singh, the manager of the Rural Energy Development Programme in Nepal will be among those here to speak to you.

**Press Conferences Today

And then at 2 p.m., here in this room, there will be a background briefing by a senior official on the Millennium Development Goals Report for 2010.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

And then tomorrow, at 11 a.m. here in this room, the Secretary-General will hold a press conference to launch that Report.  And just to remind you that because of that, there won’t be a noon briefing tomorrow.  But as always, I am available to answer questions any time.

And then at 2 p.m., here in the library auditorium, there will be a press conference with ministers from Denmark, India and the United Kingdom, in conjunction with the Global Compact Leaders Summit, to discuss the role of governments in engaging the private sector for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

So, I’m happy to take any questions you might have.  Yes, please.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [inaudible] Sri Lanka, you mentioned that the Secretary-General hopes that the Government will cooperate.  The Government has been very clear in opposing this panel, and this investigation.  Has there been any indication that they will cooperate, number one?  And number two, we had a Tamil representative on Al-Jazeera English yesterday, who said that essentially the commission is rubbish because there is no protection for witnesses.  And because there is no protection for witnesses, none of them are going to come forward.  Is that a concern of the Secretary-General?  Can you just respond to that?

Spokesperson:  When you talk about the commission, which commission?

Correspondent:  The panel, I’m sorry, the panel.

Spokesperson:  Because this is an advisory panel.  This is not a commission.  And I think the nomenclature is quite important here, because it is an advisory panel to advise the Secretary-General.

Correspondent:  Right.

Spokesperson:  It’s not fact-finding, and it’s not an investigative body in that sense.  To answer your question about the response of the Sri Lanka authorities, clearly as we’ve said, the panel hopes to cooperate with concerned officials in Sri Lanka.  That’s clearly the intention and the hope.  And it’s also clear, we’ve heard some of the voices that there are out there, but this, the Secretary-General has all the authority that he needs to conduct this work through an advisory panel.  And there isn’t any specific need to travel to Sri Lanka or to engage with Sri Lankan officials on the ground unless they consent to do that.

Question:  Follow-up?

Spokesperson:  Yes, Matthew, yeah.

Question:  I want to ask on this, whether in its definition of concerned officials, the UN has included Sarath Fonseka, who was the general in charge during the final stage of the conflict, and who has alleged that orders were given to kill surrendering both fighters and to shell civilians.  So, he’s an official, presumably, and has said that he would like to testify or to make his evidence known.  Has the, will this panel be speaking to him as a concerned official?

Spokesperson:  The mandate is such that some of the precise details on who and how will still need to be worked out.  But the aim is for this panel, as I have said, to cooperate with the concerned officials.  There is a timeframe set once the work has started, to complete that within, in four months.

Question:  There is an announcement today by the European Union that they’ll only extend this GSP plus trade concession if Sri Lanka commits to human rights-related actions.  I’m wondering whether the UN has, knows whether those required actions include cooperating with this panel.  Is this, what does the UN think of this European Union human rights-related condition on Sri Lanka?

Spokesperson:  We’re focusing on the work of this advisory panel at the moment.  Yes, Barbara.

Question:  Will the panel, the panel be expected to monitor and crucially assess the Sri Lankan commission work?  And, is it within its mandate to suggest that if that, to suggest that an international effort might be more adequate if it feels the commission isn’t independent and credible?  Is that within its mandate?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, the panel’s work, the work that is done by the panel in the coming weeks and months will be to formulate advice for the Secretary-General.  And it’s not, as we’ve repeatedly said, this is not pointed at the Sri Lankan authorities.  This is an advisory group of a panel of experts for the Secretary-General.

Question:  But it doesn’t have the accountability process [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Yes, I’m getting there, I’m getting there, I’m getting there.  The primary responsibility for investigating these allegations that are out there, we all know about them, is in the first instance, and we continue to believe that, in the first instance is with the authorities of Sri Lanka.  And the panel and the Sri Lankan Government’s lessons learned and reconciliation commission are obviously separate.  You ask whether it would be for the panel to say whether there should be some kind of follow-up international investigation, at this point, the Secretary-General’s focus is on encouraging a serious national accountability process.  But, clearly, it will be up to the panel to offer the assessments and advice it considers pertinent.  So, this is not to prejudge what the panel may or may not provide in the way of advice to the Secretary-General.

Question:  Can I just ask you on; you said that they could, if necessary, they could conduct all of their work without travelling to Sri Lanka.  Is that what you said?

Spokesperson:  That’s the case.  Clearly, what needs to happen is for the panel to get together and to decide what they need to do and how they need to do it.  But it’s going to be for the panel if it deems it’s necessary and appropriate to visit Sri Lanka to request that.  And it will then be for the Sri Lankan authorities to say yes or no.

Question:  Mr. Darusman was on the panel to look into the death of Benazir Bhutto, and he came here the day that the report was released.  I’m wondering whether this… the work product of this panel will be released, and relatedly, whether any of the three you think will speak to the press.  I’m thinking of… I mean, Mr. Ratner apparently served on… served as UN adviser on Khmer Rouge in the past.  I don’t know… I mean there is no bio put out today, but I don’t know if he’s done other UN service.  I guess, is there some way to know, each of them have outside jobs, Mr. Darusman was just named as Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea.  Do these jobs in any way, you know, take into the time… How much time are they going to devote to this, and are they going to meet in person, and you know, can you tell us a little more how it’s going to work and whether the report will be made public?

Spokesperson:  On that last point, which is also the first point in between all the other questions, of whether it will be made public or not, this, as we’ve repeatedly said, this is a panel to advise the Secretary-General, and what form that advice will take will be determined as the panel carries out its work.  And whether advice is made public or not will be at the Secretary-General’s discretion.  To answer the other questions, the three panel members obviously need to meet and to discuss how they will work together.  On the question of combining a number of roles, that the dual role that you mentioned, these are obviously entirely separate, and I know that Mr. Marzuki Darusman has made it clear that the role that involves the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, this Special Rapporteur role on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and this chairmanship of this panel of experts are not incompatible, meaning that he has the time to deal with both.

Question:  Can I follow up?

Spokesperson:  Yes, please, yeah.

Question:  Can you spell out a little more clearly, what they will be doing in that four months if they don’t travel there?  So, are they going to review other reports and make recommendations based on that, or…?

Spokesperson:  Yeah.  Look, I’m not saying that they won’t.  I’m saying that it’s obvious that they will want to sit down, they will want to take the time to look through what it is that they have to achieve within four months from the start, once they start the work.  And they will also need to figure out whether they do need to travel there, and if so, ask the Sri Lankan authorities whether they can do that.  But I am not going to prejudge at this stage how that might happen and whether it would happen.  Yes.

Question:  Martin, there have been reports, as you know, that the Government of Pakistan has sent a letter to the Secretary-General voicing some objections and making some comments and observations on the UN report on Benazir Bhutto’s commission.  Has that letter been received?  And if so, what are the details of it?  What are they objecting, and who has sent this letter?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I think my colleague has already told you and others this morning; a letter was received and it’s being studied.  Yes, Masood.

Question:  I just want to clarify on that Sri Lankan panel.  Who is going to be funding that Sri Lankan panel?  Like, in case of Benazir’s panel, it was funded by the Pakistani Government.

Spokesperson:  It’s funded from funds available to the Secretary-General for unforeseen expenses, that’s how it’s classified.

Question:  And then also, when the Secretary-General comes to meet the press here tomorrow, will he be able to answer, besides answering the questions on Millennium Development Goals, on [inaudible] situation in Kyrgyzstan and so forth, or no?  Only focus [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  The focus is obviously on Millennium Development Goals at the press conference tomorrow.  That’s the focus.  And that’s clearly, that’s our aim for the Secretary-General to be able to present the report on the Millennium Development Goals.  What questions you ask is up to you.

Question:  Just as one follow-up, will this letter be released as a document of the United Nations?

Spokesperson:  It’s being studied, and I don’t have anything further on that.  You could ask the people who sent it, of course.  Yeah, please, Ozlem.

Question:  Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told journalists after meeting with Secretary-General that the issue of international inquiry has to be shelved for the moment, saying it’s not the right time.  Does the Secretary-General have any reaction, because I couldn’t get any readout from their meeting yesterday?  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Well, a number of things.  In his meeting on Monday afternoon with the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the Secretary-General re-emphasized the need for fundamental change in the Israeli policy on closures in Gaza.  And also, the Secretary-General called for prompt and positive response to his proposal for an international panel looking into the incident from 31 May.  And also, as you are asking about a further readout, if you like, the Secretary-General also discussed humanitarian issues, including the situation of Corporal Gilad Shalit, and the issues related to the forthcoming 1701 report, that includes the question of withdrawal from Ghajar.  Yeah, that’s what I have.  Yes, Barbara.

Question:  Two questions.  Just, again, a little bit more clarification with the panel, are they expected to actually speak to witnesses?  Or is it going to be something more academic than that?  This is one.  The second one is just a follow-up to the Ehud Barak comment.  What you just read was that the Secretary-General wanted a prompt and positive response for his proposal.  But does he not consider Mr. Barak’s statement a response, then?  Because that seemed quite clear.  He said, we told the Secretary-General to shelve this panel.

Spokesperson:  I think the word was defer.

Question:  No, he said put it on the shelf.

Spokesperson:  Well, either way, the Israelis have actually neither accepted nor rejected the Secretary-General’s proposal.  And the proposal remains not on the shelf, but on the table and we are hopeful for a positive response from Israel.

Question:  And on the panel discussion more academic [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  On the first part, as we’ve said, the mandate is such that the panel will hope that it can cooperate with concerned officials in Sri Lanka.  And the three panellists will need to sit down to figure out who it is they need to speak to and what kind of information they need to gather.  Obviously, this was a conflict that lasted for decades, and so, there is obviously a need to focus, in the first, as we’ve said, on the final stages of the conflict and to try to speak to those people if the panel members consider it necessary to those people involved in that particular phase.  What I would say, as you may detect, this is… the announcement that I have now on the panel of experts being set up and advising the Secretary-General on issues of accountability, that’s been done.  The next stage is for the panellists to meet and work out for themselves precisely how they are going to go about the work that they need to conduct within the time-frame that they have, and to carry out the work that they have been asked to carry out for the Secretary-General.  Yes.

Question:  Yes, a question on Afghanistan.  There are reports coming from Kabul that the UN has agreed to remove a certain number of Taliban from the sanctions list.  I’m wondering if the Secretary-General has any comment on that, [a] reaction.

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, I think that we need to be clear what we’re talking about when we talk about the UN.  This was the Security Council meeting with President Karzai, who apparently raised the subject.  The Security Council said that, as I understand it, the Security Council members who were present there said that they were waiting for details in a report on precisely this topic.  And I am sure that when they return from Afghanistan, they will be able to tell you more.  But it is the Security Council that’s looking at that at the moment.

Question:  But in terms of, you know, Ban Ki-moon being a champion of human rights, seeing Taliban removed from that list considering their history in terms of injustices towards women and girls, would he…?

Spokesperson:  Well, there are a number of things here; first of all, as I said, this is something that’s in the Security Council.  And so, it’s for the Security Council to decide based on the report that’s in the works.  What has been consistently said going back to the Afghanistan conference in London in January is that any reconciliation process will need to involve the Taliban and others; and any reconciliation process that does involve them would be built upon the clear demand and necessity for those people to renounce violence and to lay down their arms.  The Secretary-General has said that repeatedly and so did the assembled ministers at that conference in London.  Mr. Abbadi, yeah.

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Also on Afghanistan, you indicated earlier that the entire Security Council is in Afghanistan.  This is not the usual custom for the Security Council.  They usually send small delegations or three or four members.  And the Security Council as you know is supposed to be permanently seated in New York in the event that a worldwide serious crisis occurs requiring immediate attention.  Should such a crisis occur now, is the Council in Afghanistan equipped to deal with it immediately?  Does it have the logistical facilities, the interpretation, the translation, the equipment, printing, etcetera?

Spokesperson: Well, I would look at it in a slightly different way; that the Security Council members, the Permanent Representatives, not all of them, but I think virtually all of them, are on the spot in Afghanistan.  But obviously they have Deputy Permanent Representatives here in New York who are perfectly capable and able to meet should the need arise.  And obviously the Security Council Affairs Division is here in New York and fully equipped to help as always should there need to be some kind of meeting while the Permanent Representatives are off base.  I am sure that each of those Permanent Representatives is in close contact with their respective missions here in New York to keep their fingers on the pulse.  Yes.

Question:  Thank you, Matthew.  On the meeting…

Spokesperson:  I am not Matthew, please…

Question:  You might become one!  Anyway, on the meeting between the Secretary-General and the Israeli Defense Minister, would you please elaborate a bit on what they discussed regarding the [resolution] 1701 and the Ghajar issue?

Spokesperson:  What was the second one, sorry?  1701 and…?

Question:  The Ghajar issue.

Spokesperson:  Right.  Okay.  I don’t have any more than what I told you, which is that they did indeed, or rather, the Secretary-General did discuss the question of Corporal Shalit, and also issues relating to the forthcoming 1701 report and the question of the withdrawal from Ghajar, but I don’t have any more details than that.  Okay, yes.

Question:  Was the meeting just between Secretary-General and Ehud Barak only — do you know?

Spokesperson:  I think it was… the short answer is no, it was not; there were more people there.  But it was a fairly limited number of people.  Yes, Matthew.

Question:  Sure.  Kyrgyzstan and then procurement.  On Kyrgyzstan…

Spokesperson:  Kyrgyzstan, yeah.

Question:  Yeah, you said in one of your readouts about the difficulty of delivering humanitarian aid because of the barricades.  But some are saying that in fact, I mean, the Uzbek community put up barricades because people were coming into the community and burning their houses and killing them, and committing other atrocities.  What’s been the UN’s position on the involuntary dismantling of the barricades, particularly in light of a report today that troops, Kyrgyz troops, beat and arrested ethnic Uzbek men in a neighbourhood of Osh.  Is that something the UN is concerned about — the removal of barricades and increased violence?

Spokesperson:  We remain concerned about the tensions that there are in Osh, particularly in Osh, and elsewhere in the south of Kyrgyzstan.  And we’re obviously concerned, and the Secretary-General himself is following closely the reports of some renewed violence and bloodshed.  On the barricades, Miroslav Jenča, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, has been in Osh, and has been speaking to security officials and other local officials and also to local people.  And he’s fully aware of the sensitivities that there are amongst the ethnic Uzbek population, and about the concerns that they have.  And I know that he’s been speaking to the authorities there precisely because of those concerns.

Question:  Also on Kyrgyzstan, yesterday I was informed by a well-placed person that the President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, has informed the UN and Kyrgyz authorities that there can be no polling in the refugee camps that have been established for people that fled across the border.  I wonder, one, if you can just, I mean, I think this is true, but whether you can either now, or later today, confirm the UN’s understanding.  And then if you do confirm it, explain how the UN can support an election that will, will you know, absolutely, or formally disenfranchise at least 80,000 people based on what many people see as ethnic cleansing.

Spokesperson:  First of all, Mr. Jenča made clear in that audio briefing on Friday that the question of holding the referendum is one for the authorities of Kyrgyzstan.  That’s the first thing.  The second is that there are obvious concerns about people who are not in a position to vote.  And I know that UN officials and others, including from the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] and the European Union, are talking to the authorities of the interim government of Kyrgyzstan about how one handles that.  I will come back to you with some more details particularly on that, the part of the question about the Uzbek President having communicated with the UN about polling on his territory. 

Question:  And just one follow up on that, because I think there is a Bloomberg or Business Week story in which Mr. Jenča is quoted as saying the referendum must go forward.  Has there been a change in his position since he said that, or was he misquoted when he said that?

Spokesperson:  Well, you heard what Mr. Jenča said here, or in this, by audio here on Friday.  It’s for the Kyrgyz authorities to decide on that.  There are many factors that are involved; the balance of legitimacy versus security.  This is not an easy decision for them to take.  It is for them to take, and it is for the United Nations and other organizations that are on the ground there to help where they can both with advice and support, if it is requested.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  I wanted to share it around a bit.  Yeah.

Question:  Thank you.  I just wondered if the Secretary-General or anyone has had anything to say about the mixed signals the Americans seem to be sending each other in Afghanistan.  The President recalled McChrystal [inaudible] because he criticized the President’s stance and so on.  Is that going to have any ripples for the UN in any way, or…?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think that’s something that I need to comment on.  Yeah, yes.

Question:  Sorry I’m a little bit late, so I apologized if you may have already gone over this, but Iran is sending a massive shipment of humanitarian aid to Israel next week, and Israelis have indicated that they’re not going to be pleased with Iran doing that, and is there any statement from this Secretary-General or are there, are the Iranians planning on working with the UN agencies to receive those goods?

Spokesperson:  You mean, Gaza, not Israel, I assume?

Question:  They’re sending it to Gaza.

Spokesperson:  Right.

Question:  The Iranians are sending it to Gaza, and Israel has indicated that they’re not going to [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Well, there continue to be reports of intentions to send further ships from several quarters, and not just as you mentioned, to try to reach Gaza.  And I would simply reiterate what the Secretary-General has said before, that all parties should act responsibly and with caution, and to avoid any further kind of incident.  And I would also note that the Quartet, in the statement from yesterday, urged all those wishing to deliver goods to do so through established channels, so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via land crossings to Gaza.  And the Quartet, as you all recall, emphasized that there is no need for unnecessary confrontations and it called on all parties to act responsibly in meeting the needs of the people in Gaza.

Question:  As a follow-up, are the Iranians acting responsibly?  I mean, in the sense that they’re sending humanitarian goods that the Israelis are quite clearly indicating that they would not be pleased with that shipment.  So, how do you… Is the Secretary-General going to get involved in trying to kind of deal with this negotiation of the goods getting into Gaza?

Spokesperson:  What he said publicly and what I am repeating here is that he’s asked all those involved to act responsibly and with caution, because the last thing we want to see is any kind of further incident.  And the Quartet, of which the Secretary-General is obviously a part, has said that there isn’t any need for an unnecessary confrontation.  If there are goods to be delivered, they can be delivered through the existing established channels, which involve land crossings.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  You indicated earlier that in his meeting with the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the Secretary-General discussed several issues with him, including the issue of Corporal Shalit.  Has the Secretary-General been working recently behind the scene for the release of the corporal, either directly or indirectly?  Has he had any formal or informal contact direct, or indirect with Hamas?

Spokesperson:  By its very nature, anything that goes on behind the scenes needs to be behind the scenes, so I am not going to answer that.  Yeah, Matthew. 

Question:  [inaudible] the procurement one, you may have an “if asked”.  But I have a simple question first, which is that Helen Clark, UN system official, head of UNDP, is listed on the website of Socialist International, which is meeting here at the UN, as a vice-president of the organization.  I’m just wondering, was, is there some kind of waiver given or is permissible for a UN system official to serve in such a capacity with an outside group?

Spokesperson:  I would ask you to ask UNDP.

Question:  I think, there is a UN system, I mean, there’s UN rules that cover the whole system, so it’s not…

Spokesperson:  But in the first instance…

Correspondent:  Right, okay.

Spokesperson:  …ask UNDP.

Question:  I will, I will.  The other, I’m sure you’ve seen the story by our colleague John Halperin about procurement and these two individuals at ECA [Economic Commission for Africa] who reportedly diverted funds and obtained false visas, Mr. Stoykov and Casals.  The story quotes Paul Buades, that the UN took unspecified administrative actions.  Given just how kind of damning the story is, I mean, why are the actions that were taken by the UN on pretty straight-forward seeming corruption unspecified?  What’s the UN’s response, both to the story and to the specifics of, was any money recouped that was diverted?  And can Mr. Buades, if he is the one ultimately in charge of discipline, come and give a briefing?  What’s the response to this [inaudible] story?

Spokesperson:  First of all, Mr. Buades was in touch with John Halperin at some length, and he is only quoted in brief in that story.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  I beg your pardon?

Question:  If he comes here, I am sure it will be quoted more extensively.

Spokesperson:  As I said, he did speak at some length, and what is represented there in the story is a fraction of that.  So, there may be details that are on the cutting room floor.  So, I will see if there is anything that we can provide on what you said were unspecified administrative actions.  Yeah.

Question:  [inaudible] normally, if this type of a story comes out, I’ve seen, you sort of pulled up a piece of paper and say either we, you know, we…

Spokesperson:  I’ve pulled up lots of pieces of paper this morning, this afternoon, but on that one, all right.  Yeah.  We’ll make this the last question.  Yes.

Question:  I’d like to rephrase my questions.  Is the Secretary-General confident that Corporal Shalit might be released in the next few months?

Spokesperson:  Look, what I meant, Mr. Abbadi, is that the Secretary-General has raised it with, as I said, with Ehud Barak, with the Israeli Defence Minister, and he’s obviously discussed this with a number of people in official settings simply to, and you will remember in fact that when he was in Gaza, he said so publicly.  He called for the release of Corporal Shalit standing there in Gaza.  I’d think that would answer your question on whether he’s spoken directly or indirectly to Hamas.  The Secretary-General has repeatedly called for the unconditional release of Corporal Shalit.

Question:  No, my question is:  is he confident that he might be released in the next few weeks?

Spokesperson:  That’s an imponderable, I think.  The most important thing is to continue to call for his release and for those involved, and with leverage to continue to work for it.  Okay, thank you very much.  Thank you.

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For information media • not an official record