11 July 2007


11 July 2007
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of the noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.  I should just let you know that the Security Council this morning, as you know, heard a briefing from Peter van Walsum, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, about the Secretary-General’s latest report on that subject.  And he is about to come to the stakeout.

So just to let you know that they are wrapping up now, and I won’t [likely] be making further announcements about him coming to the stakeout.  So, if you need to talk to him, you will probably need to head out there.

**Guest at Noon today

In the meantime, the Deputy Secretary-General, who will join us, will brief you on her recent trip to Austria, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana and Kenya.  We will not start her briefing until after Mr. van Walsum is finished.  So she will come here.  We’re planning for 12:30.  And Mr. van Walsum will speak to you at the stakeout shortly.

**Security Council

Meanwhile in the Security Council, just to wrap that up, the Security Council will discuss a draft resolution concerning the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire.

**Secretary-General in London

Turning to the Secretary-General’s activities, he is in London today, where he met with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.  The two of them were to have a joint press conference afterwards, and we will provide you with a transcript as soon as we get it.

And earlier, the Secretary-General spoke to the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House, telling them that, as he grew up in a war-torn and destitute Korea, the United Nations had stood by his people in their darkest hour.

Now, he said, we are faced with a world that poses challenges that no country can resolve on its own, where the United Nations can and must grow and take on new roles.  He pointed to the work that the UN system does from Darfur to the Middle East, from the defining challenge of climate change to the need to deal with the global scourge of terrorism.

To deal with all those challenges, the Secretary-General said, we need dialogue and patience, resources and reform.

And we have copies of his speech upstairs.

** Darfur

And the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is warning that an increase in violent attacks against aid workers in Darfur is putting relief operations there in jeopardy.

OCHA says attacks against relief workers have soared by 150 per cent in the past year.  In June, one out of every six convoys that left provincial capitals was hijacked or ambushed.  More than 100 staff have been temporarily detained, often at gunpoint.

Such lawlessness has forced the temporary suspension of numerous relief activities, affecting more than 1 million people in need.  Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes says operations will continue to be adapted so that the most vulnerable receive at least some relief, but he called on all parties to stop the attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice.

And there’s more information on this in a press release upstairs.

We also have available for you a fact sheet on the UN’s Darfur operation and the Secretary-General’s multipronged strategy to try to end the crisis in Darfur and bring peace to the situation there.

**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

On the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), following receipt of an invitation, a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be travelling to the DPRK within the next few days.

The team will implement arrangements agreed between the IAEA and the DPRK and approved by the Agency’s Board of Governors to undertake verification and monitoring of the shutdown and sealing of DPRK´s Yongbyon nuclear facilities.

** Lesotho

And Lesotho has declared a food security emergency, a crisis which was precipitated by the country’s most severe drought in 30 years.  According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, a fifth of the population is in need of emergency food aid.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Holmes says the situation is critical for those already living on the edge and coping with the combined impact of successive crop failures, poverty and HIV/AIDS.  And he urged the international community to respond rapidly for assistance there.

And there’s more information on that in a press release as well.

**World Population Day

And today is World Population Day.  The theme this year is “men as partners for maternal health”.

In a message marking the day, the Secretary-General encouraged men to become agents for change and to support human rights and safe motherhood in every way possible.  He noted that more than half a million women die each year during pregnancy and childbirth, and stressed the decisive role men play in decisions about family planning, among others.

Echoing this message, the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, said that men’s involvement and participation could make all the difference -– by discouraging early marriage, promoting girls’ education, fostering equitable relationships and supporting women’s reproductive health and rights.

And there are copies of both messages upstairs, as well as a press release.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

And tomorrow, just to flag a press conference to you, at 1:30 p.m., Ambassador Peter Burian of Slovakia, who is the Chairman of the Security Council’s 1540 Committee, Richard Cupitt, Assistant Coordinator of the Committee, and Elizabeth Turpen, Senior Associate of the Henry Stimson Center, will brief you on the current work of the Committee and its efforts to facilitate the resolution, which calls on Members States to prevent terrorists access to weapons of mass destruction.

And that’s all I have for you.  I mentioned at the beginning of this briefing that Peter van Walsum, the Secretary-General’s Envoy for Western Sahara, should be at the stakeout either now or shortly to talk to you after briefing the Security Council on Western Sahara and the recent talks regarding that subject.

So that’s what I have for you.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  With reference to Darfur, can you give us a quick capsule description of exactly what is the status, the current status, of the hybrid force?  Is it on site, is it assembling, mobilizing, getting together, or is it yet in being?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The United Nations and the African Union have agreed on a concept of operations for this hybrid operation.  The Secretary-General has put a lot of energy into trying to get that force on the ground as quickly as possible.  As the Security Council President, I think, mentioned to you in the last few days, the Security Council is about to consider a draft resolution authorizing the force.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations has had already one preliminary troop contributors and police contributing meeting to preparations to get troop contributors for that force.  And they are following up on that, and as soon as the resolution is adopted and the force is authorized, I was told that they will be having another troop contributors meeting.

Question:  Should I assume then that this resolution that you describe will authorize the actual physical deployment of the force?

Deputy Spokesperson:  That’s correct.

Question:  Just want to find out about this Israeli-Gaza crossing that we’ve been talking about.  Has anybody spoken with the Israeli authorities [inaudible] these construction materials and so and so forth, [inaudible]UNRWA operations have just been halted as a consequence of that begin and if yes, then what is the result?

Deputy Spokesperson:  This is something that we were discussing the other day in this room.  The Secretary-General has on a number of occasions raised this issue of the importance of the Gaza crossings being opened with his interlocutors on the ground.  Numerous UN agencies are obviously constantly in touch with the authorities about trying to get humanitarian assistance and aid across.  So this is an ongoing process.  Specifically who spoke to whom, I don’t have that kind of detail today.

Question:  Did Mr. Ban meet with the head of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and is he going to support this call that the Security Council and the Secretariat encourage the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia to allow other nations’ ships to patrol the coast?

Deputy Spokesperson:  On that, as you know, the Secretary-General just started his official visit to London last night.  And all I can say on that is that, yes, he did meet with the Secretary-General of the IMO a short while ago, and that they did discuss the issue of piracy off Somalia and what the international community could do to protect shipping.  That’s a preliminary readout that I have of the meeting.

Question:  And while he’s in London, do you know if he’s going to meet with Mark Malloch Brown?

Deputy Spokesperson:  That meeting has already taken place.

Question:  Can you comment on the accuracy of reports that are claiming that the UN has recommended that the Shebaa Farms go back to Lebanon?

Deputy Spokesperson:  On that, the UN has not asked the Government of Israel to hand over the Shebaa Farms to the United Nations.  The United Nations cartographer continues his work to determine the geographic scope of the Farms.  His mandate is not to determine the sovereignty over the Shebaa Farms.  That issue will be decided through discussions with the parties, that is, Lebanon, Syria and Israel.  And the Secretary-General remains engaged in that issue.

Question:  May I assume that when this cartographer has completed his work, the report will be published and available to us?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  I think it was about a month ago that you made some comments about victims of the Srebrenica massacre and the need for justice to be served and those responsible brought to justice.  Is Ban Ki-moon saying anything now on the anniversary, I think it’s today and tomorrow, the anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre?  Any statement that we may be receiving on this anniversary?  And also, what’s the latest on what I believe is a lawsuit that’s directed towards the United Nations and the Dutch Government by the victims of that tragedy?

Deputy Spokesperson: On your first question about the commemoration, Carla del Ponte did represent the UN today at the commemoration.  And I believe she did not speak, but she spoke to reporters afterwards.

In terms of the Secretary-General, I think I have to refer you to what Michèle said yesterday here when asked a question.  But no, he did not have an official statement for the day.  In terms of the reaction, I believe it was a letter from the relatives of the Srebrenica victims, I did have quite an extensive official reaction.  So, if I can give it to you upstairs.  We read it into the record at the time, so I’ll have to get that.

Question:  Just before coming to the briefing, I read what I guess you had read out, but it wasn’t clear exactly what the UN’s position is on this.  Is the UN ready to drop its immunity to allow this case to come through and anybody held responsible for the atrocities and the mismanagement that led to those atrocities?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have the piece of paper that you read before you came down here, so I’m going to have to get back to you afterwards.

Question:  Okay.  It’s very unclear, so if you could get back to me, that would be great.  Just one other question.  What’s the situation with Guido Bertucci?  Has he resigned, and what’s happening with the OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] investigation in DESA [Department of Economic and Social Affairs]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing –- I have not heard anything, any updates on that, but again, if there’s anything more I’ll come back to you on that.

[The Spokesperson later told the reporter that Mr. Bertucci’s situation had not changed.]

Question:  Was there a readout of the Secretary-General’s meeting with Mark Malloch Brown?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.  It’s again very short because the meeting just took place a little while ago.  The meeting was described as being amicable.  They discussed UN reform, Quartet, Middle East Quartet issues, Darfur and Afghanistan.

This is again another warning to let you know that Mr. van Walsum is on his way to the Security Council stakeout right now.  So maybe on this note, I’ll end the briefing.  And as soon as he’s done, we will bring the Deputy Secretary-General here for her press conference.

Matthew, did you have another question?

Correspondent:  No, no, I just wanted to say that we should do it at once.

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, we will wait until he’s done.  Okay?  Thank you.  Have a good afternoon.

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