14 December 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.

So, good afternoon everybody, and welcome to the briefing.

**Guest at Noon

As you can see, my guest today is Robert Orr, who is the Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning.  And he is here to brief you on the outcome of the United Nations climate conference which ended at the weekend in Cancún, Mexico.

**Richard Holbrooke

Before I hand over to Bob, I just wanted to let you know that the Secretary-General has written to the family of Richard Holbrooke, who as you know, died last night, and he said how very sad he was to hear the news and to express his sympathy to the family.

The Secretary-General said that Mr. Holbrooke was a giant and a legend in his time.  He wrote that Mr. Holbrooke’s desire to do good in the world was fierce, and he pursued all he set out to do with a resolution and tenacity that were second to none.  His legacy will be in his works, an inspiration to so many around the world.

And as I think you know, we’ve sent a note around to correspondents with more details on the Secretary-General’s message to the family of Richard Holbrooke.

And, well, perhaps I could just pass the floor to you at this point.

[Press conference by Assistant Secretary-General Orr issued separately.]

**Security Council on Middle East

Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, told the Security Council today that, following recent developments in the region, the need to shift strategy is evident.

He said that we understand that the United States will now engage both sides in indirect talks on all the final status issues, and the Secretary-General expects the parties to engage seriously.  He added that Quartet envoys are preparing a meeting of the Quartet principals, which we expect to take place soon in the coming year.

Serry added that the parties should show discipline and responsibility in refraining from provocative actions.  And in this regard, he expressed his worry that there has been a rise in demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures in recent months.

And we have his remarks in my Office.  And Mr. Serry intends to speak to reporters at the Security Council stakeout, once the meeting on the Middle East has ended.

**Security Council

In addition to the briefing on the Middle East, the Security Council, by a vote of 14 to 1, adopted a resolution expressing its full support for the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) and extending its mandate by six months, until 15 June next year.

The Council also adopted resolutions to ensure adequate staffing of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia over the coming months.

And in a Presidential Statement, the Security Council welcomed the extension of the Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA) by one year, until the end of 2011.  Council members called on the political-military groups in that country that have not joined the political peace process to do so.

** Côte d'Ivoire

A quick update on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.  The mission there, UNOCI, informs us that tensions have eased slightly since yesterday near the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, following a UN-brokered agreement whereby two positions near the hotel are now manned jointly by the Forces de défense et de sécurité (FANCI) and UNOCI troops.  Forces Nouvelles personnel are within hotel premises.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is reporting that more Ivorians have arrived in north-eastern Liberia, due to the continuing political uncertainty in Côte d’Ivoire.

As of this weekend, an estimated 3,500 people had entered Liberia, with new arrivals reported in villages along the border at a rate now of around 150 people a day.

** Darfur

The United Nations-African Union mission in Darfur, UNAMID, reports that the current security situation in Khor Abeche is improving, but still tense.  This follows clashes between Sudanese Armed Forces and Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi forces in Khor Abeche, which is 83 kilometres north-east of Nyala, South Darfur.

The Tanzanian battalion accompanied by the village Umda or traditional leader, visited the village yesterday to assess the situation.

According to the Mission, some of the displaced civilians taking refuge outside the UNAMID camp are from neighbouring Kalaka village, which is approximately 16 kilometres north of the UNAMID camp and they apparently are fearing further Sudanese Armed Forces attacks.  Some combatants remain in the general area.  And there are reports of ongoing discussions between different groups in Khor Abeche village to avoid further clashes.

** Sudan Referendums

The UN Secretary-General’s Panel on the Referenda in the Sudan arrived in New York yesterday for meetings with UN officials over the next two days.  The Panel will be meeting the Secretary-General tomorrow, Wednesday to present their views on the preparations for the referenda.  They are scheduled to brief the Security Council in informal consultations on the 16th, after which we expect they will speak to reporters at the stakeout.  And the Panel will be undertaking its third visit to Sudan from 18 to 22 December.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) says it shares the concerns of aid groups about the possibility of renewed attacks on civilians by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).  The end-of-year holiday season has, in the past, been a period of increased LRA activities, the Mission notes.

In response, the Mission says it is working with aid groups to help deliver humanitarian assistance and UN peacekeepers have also increased their presence in LRA-affected north-eastern Congo.

Even so, the Mission warns, a broader approach is needed to deal with the threat posed by the LRA presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and indeed, in the region at large.  In that regard, it welcomes the call by the African Union for a joint mechanism by countries in the region to help further the fight against the LRA.

**Central Emergency Response Fund

This morning, the Secretary-General appealed to countries to continue to give generously to the Central Emergency Response Fund, which is known as CERF, so that it can meet its $450 million target for the coming year.

The Secretary-General was speaking at the replenishment conference for the Fund, which he called one of the world’s leading tools for disaster response.

The Secretary-General said that in 2010, the Fund has been an important part of the humanitarian response to nearly every major crisis.  “It is helping us to ensure that those who need our assistance receive it — quickly, effectively and efficiently,” he said.

We have his full remarks in my Office.  And as I mentioned yesterday, at 1:30 p.m. today Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, will brief correspondents following that pledging conference.  And that will take place at the stakeout position on the second floor of the North Lawn Building.

**UNHCR — Sixtieth Anniversary

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) marked its sixtieth anniversary today with a renewed appeal for bolstered global commitment to help the world’s forcibly displaced.  It was originally created by the General Assembly to address the post-World War II refugee situation in Europe, but its work quickly expanded, and the agency has twice been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

“We have many reasons to be proud, but we also have much more reasons to be concerned with the challenges we face at the present moment,” said High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres.

**UNESCO — Sixty-Fifth Anniversary

And also marking a milestone today is the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which celebrated the sixty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of its constitution.

And in a video message, the Secretary-General underlines that “UNESCO’s mandate is as relevant as ever”, noting that its ability to broker new ideas and bring people together are vital today and for the century ahead.

**Press Conferences

Tomorrow at 11 a.m., Ambassador Pablo Romero, the Permanent Representative of Bolivia to the United Nations, will hold a press conference.  He will be here to brief on the outcome of the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

And my guest tomorrow at the noon briefing will be Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.

So, that’s what I have for you.  And I am happy to take questions.  Yes, Tim?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [inaudible] Foreign Minister [inaudible] Government said in an interview that new mediators will be going to Ivory Coast with the backing of the United Nations and the African Union.  Do we know anything about that?  Any names…?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I’ve mentioned, the Secretary-General made a number of telephone calls over the weekend and yesterday as well related to Côte d'Ivoire.  And he continues to explore all possible avenues to help resolve the situation in Côte d'Ivoire in a manner that respects the democratically expressed will of the Ivorian people and he is emphasizing that Mr. Gbagbo must respect the will of the Ivorian people and heed the united voice of the entire international community by stepping down and allowing the democratically elected candidate to take office.  So, other questions?  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  On another discussion, non-Ivory Coast subject, does the Secretary-General plan his end-of-the-year press conference, and would that be soon?

Spokesperson:  Yes, he does, and it will be soon.  In fact it will be on Friday.  The Secretary-General will have his year-end press conference at, I think it’s 11 a.m., on Friday.  So, that’s quite soon.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask you about Sudan, the Security Council and Côte d'Ivoire.  On Sudan, I want… it’s now… Scott Gration yesterday said that, apparently after this… after having conferred with both parties, that the Abyei referendum will not take place 9 January.  And I am just wondering, I’ve asked you this before, what’s the UN, given its role in… under the… in the process, does it acknowledge the seemingly now conceded fact that the referendum in Abyei will not take place 9 January?

Spokesperson:  What we’ve said is that there is a commitment by all to adhere to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and to the timetable that is implicit in that.  Everybody recognizes the difficulties that there are with regard to particular part of the equation; and nobody is suggesting it is easy.  Those who are involved in this from the United Nations side are obviously pushing to help to ensure that things remain on track.  As I have said before, and I’ve just repeated just now, no one is suggesting this is easy.  It is obvious that there are difficulties there, and I know that many players in this are trying to find a way that this can be tackled so that everything remains on track.

Question:  Also on Sudan, there are these, at least 200 Sudanese refuges being deported by Israel.  There’s a number of media outlets who are reporting this today, quoting an unnamed Israeli source confirming what others had said.  There seems to be a UN involvement.  The UNHCR is quoted as saying as being involved and an unnamed NGO.  They are being deported through a third country and back to Sudan since having been in Israel would cause them problems in Sudan.  But what I am wondering is, is it the UN system’s position that it’s safe for these people to return to Sudan, and what do they make of what some people are calling, you know, forced or refoulement of Sudanese refugees back to Sudan at this time?

Spokesperson:  Well, I have seen the reports, I don’t have anything specific on that.  Please do try UNHCR to see if they have anything direct to tell you.

Question:  I guess, because of the Sudan… the DPKO and peacekeeping presence, whether they have a position on the safety of the return of these people.

Spokesperson:  Well, Mr. Le Roy will be here tomorrow.

Question:  I’ve also… also I noticed for this Wednesday, tomorrow’s Security Council event featuring Vice-President Joe Biden, there have been a lot of, they’ve even installed metal detectors, but on Friday, there was people going into the Council to install new telephone lines.  So, it all led me to wonder, who is paying for this?  Is it… is it… does the US specifically reimburse the UN for these special security… particularly, let’s say the phone lines, or is it something that the UN absorbs the cost and, if so, what’s the basis of doing it for this meeting and not other similarly vice-presidential meetings?

Spokesperson:  Well, you’re making assumptions there before establishing the facts.  So, let’s do that.

Question:  Okay, that will be great.  And just finally, this is just on Côte d'Ivoire, a follow -up.  The… I mean Pres… Mr. Ouattara has called on his supporters to retake Government facilities in the next, either three or two days, depending on how you count it.  And I just wonder, has the UN seen those calls?  What will they do when… when… when… when Ivorian civilians attempt to take sites that may be under the control of Gbagbo?  What’s the UN’s position on the retaking of Government sites by civilian supporters of Mr. Ouattara

Spokesperson:  The mission on the ground headed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Choi Young-jin is in close contact with Mr. Ouattara’s team and Mr. Ouattara.  And obviously, a key concern for everybody from the Secretary-General down within the UN system is that there should be stability and that peace should prevail.  And that is an incredibly important part of the equation.  Obviously, we have said, and I’ve just said again earlier that it’s also very important that the will of the Ivorian people should be heeded and respected so that the democratically elected candidate can take office.  But as I say, the stability and peace and security are vital, as well.

Question:  But how are the two [inaudible] Will UN, UNOCI peacekeepers be accompanying people who may take the sites?  Do they wish that Mr… Do they think that this shouldn’t be said, I mean, I understand that these are two goals, but they seem to, they may conflict here.  And what’s the UN’s…?

Spokesperson:  Well, if I have something further then I will let you know.  But this is what I am saying at the moment.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Okay.  All right.  Yes, Tim?

Question:  Do you have any idea how many peacekeepers have been moved into the north-eastern [Democratic Republic of the] Congo?

Spokesperson:  Say again, I didn’t the…

Question:  From the Lord’s [Resistance] Army, you mentioned just now that extra peacekeepers are being moved into the [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Let’s find out.  I don’t now the answer to that.  Let me just check, I did have something, it wasn’t specifically about… What I can tell you, I don’t have figures, but what I can tell you is that a specific operation, which is specifically MONUSCO operation.  So, and it is called “Rudia Umbrella” and it is operating in the Duru-Niangara-Bangara triangle in the Dungu area of Haute Uele.  And this operation started on November 30 and will run through the middle of January.

[The Spokesperson later said that 900 additional peacekeepers were sent to the region]

Question:  Specifically against the LRA?

Spokesperson:  Correct, yeah.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  A Palestinian official has been cited as saying by an [inaudible] report just now that may be it was earlier, but that about 100 UN Member States have recognized the Palestinian separate State, separate entity.  The Palestinian State, they have recognized the Palestinian State?

Spokesperson:  Well, I am not sure that is a question for me, that’s a question for Member States.  Yeah.

Question:  [inaudible] cited as saying that about 100 UN Member States have recognized Palestinian entity.

Spokesperson:  So, what your question, Masood?

Question:  Huh?

Spokesperson:  What’s your question?

Question:  Can you confirm whether it is in fact the case, that 100…?

Spokesperson:  As I said, that is really something for Member States.  Member States recognize or do not recognize, and it is not for the Secretary-General or the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General to focus on that.  Recognition is a matter for Member States.

Question:  Yeah, I see, okay.  No, I understand, but my question was [inaudible] does the United Nations have a tally at all on…?

Spokesperson:  As I say, that is really for Member States, yeah.  All right, thank you very much everybody.  Thank you.

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For information media • not an official record