7 July 2006


7 July 2006
Spokesman's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York




Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by Deputy Spokesman for Secretary-General

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning held consultations on the situation in the Central African Republic, including the effects of events taking place in its neighbouring countries.  General Lamine Cissé, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to the Central African Republic, briefed the Council on recent developments there.  And afterwards, Dmitry Titov, the Director of the Africa Division of the Department for Peacekeeping Operations, provided an update on developments in Chad and Sudan and their effect on the Central African Republic.  And as you all have heard, the Security Council consultations have now suspended until 12:30 p.m.

** Cyprus

Turning to Cyprus, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, announced in Cyprus today that the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders, Tassos Papadopoulos and Mehmet Ali Talat, have accepted his invitation to a meeting on Saturday, that’s tomorrow, to discuss the way forward in resolving the Cyprus question.

Gambari told reporters, after a meeting this morning with Papadopoulos: “The idea is to really find ways of moving forward so that we can begin to start some of these processes, perhaps at a technical level, but also address some of the substantive issues.”

The meeting is scheduled to take place at the residence of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Cyprus, Michael Møller.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

Then, on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the United Nations continued efforts to support the 30 July elections scheduled in that country, a helicopter from the UN Mission, MONUC, there yesterday was dropping leaflets in the region around the north-eastern town of Bunia, calling on militiamen to disarm, when it came under fire.  Seven people were on board the aircraft when it was hit by ground fire from militiamen.  A bullet hit the pilot in the thigh and he was immediately taken to the UN Mission’s military hospital in Bunia for surgery.  His life is not in danger.  And we have more information on this incident from the UN Mission in the DRC.

** Somalia

There are two reports available today on the racks.  One is on the latest situation in Somalia.  This is a report by the Secretary-General to the Security Council.  In it, the Secretary-General reviews the security and humanitarian situation in all regions of that country and describes the vital role of the United Nations in fostering dialogue amongst the Somali parties.

The Secretary-General also analyses the political dynamic within the transitional federal institutions, in light of the recent spate of violence and the resulting emergence of Islamist militias as the new rulers of the capital and other parts of Somalia.

And I’d like to also remind you that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, will be here on Monday to brief the Security Council and we will arrange for him to speak to you as well.  If he gets out early enough, we will bring him here to Room 226 as the guest.  And if not, then we’ll ask him to speak to you at the stakeout.

** Georgia

The second report out today is the Secretary-General’s report on Abkhazia, Georgia.  And in it, he said that the UN Mission there, supported by the Group of Friends, continued its efforts to facilitate and expand the dialogue between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides.

He urges the sides to implement the understandings reached during the February 2006 meeting in Geneva of the Group of Friends.  At the same time, he says, it is essential that both sides honour their previous commitments in an expeditious way.  And that report, as I mentioned, is out on the racks.

** Middle East

And turning to the Middle East, the World Food Programme (WFP) today says that the frequent closing of the crossing points into Gaza, as well as the hostilities there, continue to put enormous strains on the population.  WFP is asking for permanent and unhindered access for humanitarian personnel and relief goods to Gaza, whenever needed.

The agency noted some positive signs over the past week, as the Karni crossing point was open for three out of the last six days, allowing the World Food Programme to bring wheat and flour in.  But, it does warn that there are only 10 days of emergency supplies left to feed the 160,000 people that WFP serves in Gaza.  And we have more details in the briefing notes from Geneva upstairs.

**United Nations Commission on International Trade Law

And the UN Commission on International Trade Law concluded its thirty-ninth annual session here at UN Headquarters today.  And there’s more on that in a press release upstairs.

**Small Arms Review Conference

And, as you know, the two-week Small Arms Review Conference will wrap up its work today.  The President of the Conference, Sri Lankan Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam, who was to be here at the noon briefing, will now be available around 5 p.m. this afternoon, outside Conference Room 4, to brief you about the outcome document that should be adopted by then.

**Secretary-General in Berlin

And finally, as you know, the Secretary-General is in Berlin today where he spoke at the unveiling of the World Cup emblem for the 2010 contest, which will be held in South Africa.  He said that this is an exciting day, “not only for Africans, but for all speakers of the universal language of football”.  And he thanked the Federation of International Football Associations for bringing the World Cup to Africa, and added that he intends to migrate briefly to South Africa for the July 2010 games.  And we have copies of that speech, as delivered, upstairs.

**Guest at noon briefing on Monday

And, as I mentioned, on Monday, we will try to have the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia here as the noon guest.

**Week Ahead

And we have upstairs for you the Week Ahead for your planning purposes.

And Pragati Pascale, the General Assembly Spokesman, is here to brief you on today’s goings-on, as regards to the General Assembly and the Fifth Committee.

So, if there are no questions for me.  Yes, Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yesterday, I had asked about Israel building this buffer zone in Gaza.  And I said that (inaudible) in Lebanon in the late 1970s.  And (inaudible) you said you would have an answer about that.  Now, do you have anything to say about that?

Deputy Spokesman:  I think, in terms of what is going on in the Middle East, I would like to again draw your attention to the Secretary-General’s statement that he just issued a couple of days ago, in which he appeals very strongly for the parties to practice restraint, to step back from the brink.  In that statement, he did call on the Government of Israel to refrain from actions that amount to collective punishment of Palestinian civilians, to ensure that humanitarian and other essentials were able to get in.  And, in that statement, he also reminded the Government of Israel and the Palestinian authorities of their obligations under international humanitarian law, regarding the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure.  And I also would like to add today that he does, in addition, deplore the large numbers of people killed and wounded since that statement has been issued.

Matthew and then Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  This is a question I’ve been asking UNDP for almost a week, but, since I’ve had no response from them, I’m going to ask you.  It has to do with UNDP, which has held a programme with the Government of Uzbekistan to help them collect taxes.  So, given that the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights has found conclusively that the Government of Uzbekistan used governmental funds to shoot at its own citizens, I’m wondering if you could speak to, as the Secretariat, what are the limits?  Would the UN help Governments accused by UN agencies of harming their own people to collect taxes to do just that or are there any safeguards in place for those type of (inaudible)?

Deputy Spokesman:  We’ll try to follow up the question with UNDP for you for starters.

Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Are there any documents available following the recent meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations?

Deputy Spokesman:  What sorts of documents do you…?

Question:  Anything, press releases, briefing notes…

Deputy Spokesman:  We’ll check that for you.  I’m sure that there must have been something that was released at the time.  So we’ll look into that.

Question:  I’d like to know if the Human Rights Council has issued a provisional agenda for its September session.

Deputy Spokesman:  I don’t think so.  There is a document upstairs that’s also on their website that was issued following the wrap-up of the first session.  So let’s take a closer look at that.  But, I don’t think it’s come out in that much detail yet.

Question:  Could you give us an update on what’s happening on North Korea today, on what negotiations are going on and who’s doing what?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I think that’s a question you have to pose to the Security Council presidency.  And maybe we’ll find out more.  The Council session is suspended and now in consultations.  But, hopefully, maybe you’ll get a readout when that session resumes.

Question:  But, has it been discussed in closed consultations this morning?  Do you know?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, the item that was discussed in closed consultations this morning was the Central African Republic.  And, as of now, nothing has been scheduled further.  But, I would pay attention to the Security Council programme over the next few hours and over the weekend, just to follow…

Question:  Do you think it might be discussed later today then by the Security Council?  Because we understand that there’s an amended text, which has been put forward.

Deputy Spokesman:  There are discussions, I understand, that are ongoing on a draft resolution that we mentioned to you yesterday.  And that those discussions are ongoing, so I think we need to follow-up with the Security Council ambassadors.  As I mentioned, they will be resuming in 13 minutes or so.  So, let’s find out more at the time.

Question:  Just one small factual question.  You said that two reports became final today.  The one that I asked you about yesterday, on resolution 1663, do you know when it’s going to become a formal document?

Deputy Spokesman:  I understand it’s sometime next week.  But it is not out as a document as of yet.

[The Deputy Spokesman later told the correspondent that the report was expected out on 12 July.]

If there are no other questions for me?  Pragati.

Briefing by Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon.

The General Assembly’s Fifth Committee is scheduled to meet this afternoon at 3 p.m. to take action on a draft resolution on management reform.  Action by the plenary is scheduled to follow, at 4:30 p.m.

Informal consultations are still going on this morning on some details of the draft resolution, the bulk of which was agreed late last night in a positive and constructive atmosphere.  We will make the text of that draft resolution available, as soon as it has been finalized informally.

General Assembly President Jan Eliasson will issue a letter to all Member States today, wrapping up the work thus far on UN reform and other issues, and outlining the work that remains through the end of the sixtieth session.  He will be leaving for Sweden tomorrow.  In mid-July he will be travelling to China at the invitation of the Government, both as President of the General Assembly and as Foreign Minister, accompanying the King and Queen of Sweden.  He expects to return to Headquarters around 21 August, when work will continue on counter-terrorism, ECOSOC reform and other issues.  In the President’s absence, his office will continue to support the Assembly’s work on revitalization, migration, Security Council reform and a number of other issues, and the Vice-Presidents from Mali and Kenya will, in turn, be serving as Acting President.  And we will circulate the President’s letter to you, as soon as it has been issued.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  How does the President see the action by the General Assembly on the draft resolution this afternoon?  Does he foresee consensus to adopt the resolution?

Spokesperson:  It’s still in consultation, so we can’t predict the outcome.  It seems like a consensus is hoped for.  I think he’ll make a statement at the conclusion of the meeting, also.

Thanks very much.

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